Informal sector COVID-19 victims call for seed-fund retraining support
Professor Akua Anyidoho, Director, Centre for Social Policy Studies, University of Ghana (UG), has called on government to initiate a seed-fund retraining programme for individuals who lost their jobs to COVID-19.
She said that would improve their skills or make them acquire new ones such as record keeping safeguarding their means of livelihood.
Prof. Anyidoho made the call on Thursday at a Forum on Social Protection organised by the Star Ghana Foundation in Accra on the theme: “Social Protection Mechanisms in a COVID-19 Pandemic: Understanding the intersection of impacts, response and lessons.”
The forum was for stakeholders within Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), government’s ministries, departments and agencies, and the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations among others, to assess and review the government’s response to COVID-19 and propose recommendations to better manage unfortunate and unexpected happenings like the pandemic now and in future to minimise impact.
Instead of burdensome, discriminatory, or unfair actions such as increased taxation, evictions and confiscations that further distressed informal workers, Prof. Anyidoho appealed that government’s efforts were oriented towards protection and support of workers.
Speaking on health-related responses during the pandemic, she entreated government to increase the health budget to the AU-recommended levels of 15 per cent of annual public expenditure, to address income and spatial inequities in health provisioning.
She said concerned government bodies like the Ministries of Health and Gender ought to create more fulfilling channels of communication such as the social media, including WhatsApp to spread important information on pertinent issues like vaccines and vaccination, the impact of the pandemic on mental health and on incidences of abuse.
Prof. Anyidoho, on the impact of the pandemic on education, implored government to allocate public budget purposefully to reduce spatial inequities of income, geography and disability that had widened during the pandemic, through provision of infrastructure, textbooks and e-learning resources.
She also called for collaboration between government and CSOs to provide training and resources for e-learning, especially for learners, who were low-income, rural residents or Persons with Disability (PWDs).
“To reduce pregnancy among female students and to implement girl’s re-entry policy, a campaign can be organised to increase awareness and provide support for the policy.
“There should also be an effective monitoring and evaluation of the girls’ school re-entry policy form both demand and supply sides.
“Girls must be supported with resources especially cash grants, childcare and tutoring and review of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Strategy,” she added.
Dr. Stephen Afranie, a Senior Lecturer, Centre for Social Policy Studies, UG, delivering the report, mentioned constituting of the National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, which worked with the 3Ts – testing, tracing and treatment, closure of international borders, partial lockdown of epicenters – Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa, provision of free testing and contact tracing and treatment of infected persons as some of government’s response during the lockdown period.
Others were provision of free isolation facilities and healthcare for persons infected with COVID-19, mandatory use of protective equipment and related protocols, fumigation and disinfection of specified vicinities and COVID-19 vaccinations.
They also included allowances, transportation and COVID-19 insurance for frontline health workers as well as a daily allowance of ¢150 for contact tracers, and suspension of payment of taxes for all health workers on their emoluments, among others.
Dr. Afranie said government, however, conspicuously left out CSOs and the private sector in the institutional arrangements, adding that the interventions were designed and rolled out without consideration of Ghana’s PWDs inclusive laws and policies.
“For instance, nose masks and facilities for hand washing were not customised to suit PWDs, the heights and architecture of some veronica buckets for hand washing were beyond the reach of some PWDs due to the nature of their disabilities,” he added.
As a matter of urgency, Dr. Afranie entreated government to pass the “Ghana Social Protection Bill” to provide clear guidelines, resources and legal backing for social protection measures in emergency situations.