For some time now, SEND-Ghana, a subsidiary of SEND Foundation of West Africa, a policy research and advocacy Civil Society Organisation, has been leading the efforts to have the government of Ghana set up a dedicated budget for epidemic preparedness and response in Ghana.

SEND-Ghana in partnership with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) has been advocating for epidemic preparedness financing in some selected regions and districts to influence the prioritisation of budgetary allocation for epidemic preparedness financing in Ghana.

It is in the light of this that the President of the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS), Dr. Abu Abudu Rahamani, has also stressed the need for Ghana to set up an epidemic preparedness and response fund.

For him, it will be “disastrous” should the country fail to set up a dedicated fund and prepare itself adequately in terms of logistics and human resources to handle any future outbreaks.

He explained that setting up an epidemic preparedness and response fund will enable the country to respond timely to the threats of certain disease outbreaks.

Dr. Rahamani who was speaking to Graphic Online in an interview on epidemic preparedness financing said it has become critical and a must-do for the country to have a fund that it can easily fall on should there be any epidemic or outbreak in the country.

He said it will be wrong for the country to wait for an outbreak of a disease before marshaling efforts to contain it.

For him, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic together with other emerging threats of infectious diseases, the country has no other option than to prepare itself, financially and logistically, to respond to the threats of epidemics.

The Medical Laboratory Scientist said although the country has the right caliber of human resources to handle all forms of disease threats, such experts will become incapable if the tools and logistics needed to work are not available.

That, Dr. Rahamani said, the country needed to heavily invest in its healthcare system by earmarking a specific fund that is purposely dedicated to fighting any disease outbreaks.

For him, there is no test that Ghanaian medical laboratory scientists cannot conduct but when facilities to conduct such tests are not available, it will be difficult for them to do so.

“There is no diagnostic test or radiography that we don’t have an expert here in Ghana to handle it,” he said, adding “all these professionals are being given training day in and day out; so in terms of human resource capacity, we don’t lack it.”

“We believe that the preparedness should be key that will make the response much easier,” Dr Rahamani, adding “So, it is about how well we are prepared and the preparedness and the responds all depend on resources.”

For him, even in the absence of emerging epidemics or outbreaks, certain diseases are seasonal in some parts of the country which can be handled effectively when adequate preparation and responses are deployed.

“We know some conditions. So, ours is to make sure that we get the necessary funding and logistics; get the necessary professionals well-trained and have our facilities ready. We shouldn’t wait for epidemics to happen before we start creating some facilities to contain them,” he explained.

For Dr Rahamani, it will not be a difficult situation for Ghana to set up a fund to deal with epidemics or outbreaks since the country already has a similar fund that could easily be converted.

He said the country could convert its COVID-19 Emergency Funding into Epidemic Preparedness and Response Fund to cater to other diseases.

He expressed hope that just as people and corporate bodies voluntarily contributed to the COVID-19 Trust Fund, they will also contribute to the epidemic preparedness and response fund.

Dr. Rahamani has therefore urged the government to engage parliament to pass a law that will help with the establishment of the epidemic preparedness and response fund to give the country the needed financial cushion against such disease outbreaks.

He expressed the concern that the recent shortages of childhood vaccines could not have occurred should the country have had an effective epidemic preparedness and response fund in place.

“When you cast your mind back and you realise you have resources for emergency and all those things, you feel very comfortable because you will have your peace of mind,” he said.

Dr. Rahamani has therefore urged all Ghanaians, particularly healthcare practitioners to support advocacy efforts to impress upon the government to set up the epidemic preparedness and response fund in the country.

“We need to also come together to support the advocacy on this fund because we are the frontline and when this fund is created and we get enough funds, it will make our work easier,” he noted.

He also commended SEND Ghana and its partner organisations for coming up with a lot of advocacy on the issue and engaging with the various stakeholders on the subject.

“It is important and it is good that in their (SEND Ghana’s) work, they are bringing the ministry and professionals on board; so I think it is now up to us as professional bodies to support them.

For her part, Ms. Gifty Owusua Asiedu, a public health expert, explained that setting up a dedicated fund for epidemic preparedness and response “will help to strengthen inter-governmental, public and private sector collaboration to improve health service delivery and contain future epidemic outbreaks.”

She has therefore charged the Ministry of Finance to set aside a dedicated budget to finance epidemic preparedness and response in the country, explaining that setting aside a dedicated budget by the Ministry of Finance for epidemic preparedness and response will provide an adequate response to the threat of epidemics and ensure equitable and effective health care delivery in times of outbreaks of any disease.

Ms. Asiedu also expressed concern that many Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) across the country do not have funds to support epidemic fighting at the district level, a situation she said needed to be changed.

“Epidemics break out in the communities first. So, we need to get the district well prepared before even the national teams come in,” she noted, adding “Unfortunately, we do not have such systems at the MMDAs. Most of the MMDAs do not have a dedicated budget for epidemic preparedness financing.”

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