Health workers from across West Africa have begun deliberations on how to leverage climate change to improve healthcare delivery outcomes in the subregion.
The two-day 22nd plenary session of the West African Health Sector Unions Network, which commenced in Accra yesterday, is on the theme: “Correlation between climate change and health: The role of health workers’ union.”
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, commended the network for leveraging partnerships and collaborations to help mitigate challenges in the sector for the collective good of people in the subregion.
“Increasingly, frequent extreme weather events, such as heat waves, wild fires, storms and floods, disrupt food and water systems, leading to illnesses and even death,” he said.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said although West Africa might not be contributing directly to changes in the climate, it had the responsibility to advocate a reduction in fossil fuels and activities that contributed to the phenomenon.
“As a government, we are, indeed, perturbed by what is happening in our dear beloved country and how the actions of people involved in surface mining and galamsey activities are contributing to the destruction of our water bodies and beautiful forests which provide us with sustenance of life.
“Water is life and there is no doubt that if things continue the way they are going, many communities in the country may forever be deprived of potable water. We are poised to address the menace, but can only make a headway when everyone commits to protecting our motherland,” he added.
The minister further expressed the hope that the meeting would help build the capacity of participants to address issues of degradation of the forest and water bodies, since in the end it was healthcare professionals who would be burdened with the management and care of people who would be affected by such activities.
The President of the Ghana Medical Association, Dr Frank Serebour, said: “The reckless manner in which illegal mining activities are being carried out and destroying our water bodies and forest reserves cannot be over-emphasised.
“The health implications as a result of the use of chemicals such as mercury and cyanide will affect generations to come. The country has to be afraid of these illegal mining activities and not the threat of nuclear weapons, since those activities could wipe out generations before the nuclear weapons fall,” he said.
Dr Serebour added that if care was not taken, soon there would be no water to drink, and that the people would be fighting all forms of cancers and congenital malformations due to the continuous use of chemicals in the activities of galamseyers, leading to the pollution of water bodies.
Pollution of water bodies
The President of the network, Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, said the dumping of chemicals into water bodies, which are the sources of drinking water for the people, was causing kidney and skin diseases, cancers and deformities in babies born to mothers exposed to those chemicals.
He said as health workers dealing with victims, nothing should stop them from speaking up and influencing policy on galamsey and health care in general.