Is Ghana’s health care system failing or people are playing pranks?
Although the United Nation’s Sustainable development goal three is centred on good healthcare and wellbeing some persons in Ghana especially children are yet to gain that access.
The goal among other things is supposed to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births.
“By 2030, it will end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.
With all these lofty ideas towards the eradication of diseases in the system some people in Ghana are still found positioned under major traffic lights in Accra and other cities with a Public Address system soliciting for ‘sick children.’
It is usually a story of a child needing major surgery or another, one sees children with medical equipment physically attached to their bodies, sometimes, it is a G-Tube or a catheter.
The narrative around these children is similar, it is usually the child needing a huge amount of money to enable them to undergo surgery.
Commuters are thus encouraged to donate ‘anything’ to help the child access health and live.
Parents or ‘supposed’ parents of the child in question, usually parade the child on the hot early morning sun, in a bid to solicit sympathy and money donations.
The government not long ago made an announcement to cover the cost of treatment on childhood cancers under Ghana’s National Health Insurance Policy
The Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia who made the announcement said, “These health decisions are important to deal with the sickness, and also the financial burden on families of children with cancer and people living with sickle cell will be drastically reduced while receiving treatment.”
The question is what it will take for the NHIS to cover children brought onto the streets with these ailments, are there ways to monitor such children, and are the solicitors’ benefactors.
The Ghana News Agency online team went onto the street to find out more, however, many of the people engaged in these acts declined to speak to the team.
One who pleaded anonymity after the team had donated 10 cedis said they have a boss who they report to after the daily soliciting.
“If you want to help, we can connect you to our boss. He sent us to the street to beg for these sick children. Usually if we involve the media for help, we don’t get any benefit for our efforts and the media take all the money and the credit.”
He explained that coming onto the street to solicit for the vulnerable children was their work which gave them income, “If the media can assure us to give us some of the money, we can deal with them. We have had experiences in the past where some TV stations cheated us, but I will speak to my boss and if he agrees to seek media help, I will tell you.”
The gentleman said on an average day, they can get about Gh¢500 within two to three hours of operation daily.
What the public does not know however is whether the ‘sick children’ get the needed help, or they are just being used as tools to raise monies on the streets
Rev. Dr Comfort Asare, Director, Department of Social Welfare, said about four of such persons who use the ‘sick’ children to beg, or money have been arrested and cautioned about their activities, but they keep engaging in the begging business because it is lucrative.
“One of them whom the Department of Social Welfare together with the Police arrested had about GHS4500 for just a day of begging,” she said.
Rev. Dr Asare confirmed that most of the people on the street with the ‘sick’ children use the begging as a source of livelihood for the family and the people they had recruited; “the person who brought the megaphone takes his share, others who help in collecting the money from people in the trotro and those passing also take their share and at the end of the day, the child for who they claim they are soliciting for funds rather gets small.”
She shared a story where one of the ‘street philanthropist’ who was arrested by Department of Social Welfare came with a child they were begging for, “this child was all over my office jumping in my couch, jumping down, he had tubes all over, but this child was jumping up and down.”
“Even though the child had a condition, it was not hindering him from living a normal child. The child was very healthy and very strong. I was even surprised so I asked them, is this child sick?”
Rev. Dr Asare said she questioned them saying, “Yes, the child had a condition but is the child that weak for you to carry in the sun and be soliciting for funds for?
She said for some of the ‘sick’ children we see on the street, she thinks doctors have told them unless they are at a certain age, so they are just making money.
She said the Department of Social Welfare has placed social workers in all major hospitals who intervene in situations where families are unable to afford medical bills.
Rev. Dr Asare said the social workers sometimes guarantee families in difficulties to pay their medical bills in installments.
She said the Department of Social Welfare believed that bringing those vulnerable children to the roadside to solicit funds was a cheap way of making money.
However, the Department is coming up with a five-year strategic plan that will give all children especially street children access to essential services. “We shall one day gather them and talk to them to find a solution,” the Social Welfare Director said.
By Hannah Awadzi and Tracy Amankwah