The polio infection threat - How Parliament's health committee can fix this once and for all

Pol Pat People infected with polio

Thu, 27 Jul 2017 Source: Nii Armah

It has been widely reported in the media the likelihood of newborn babies or to borrow our oft-quoted clique “our future leaders” getting infected by polio as a result of government indebtedness to UNICEF. Indeed at stake is a manifestation of a real threat to the physical and mental health of Ghana’s children.

What is intriguing however is how government institutions including Ministries of Health and Finance, as well as Parliament waited for the risk of infection to escalate before taking necessary action. As far back as February 28 2017, Chair of the Health Committee (at the time a member) Dr. Kwabena Twum-Nuamah (MP, Berekum East), explained on the floor of Parliament how it “is now a luxury for a child born in Ghana today to have his/her vaccines on time.”

According to the MP, Ghana has to resort to a stock house of vaccines for newborn babies because it has outstanding debts under the Global Vaccine Alliance Initiative, where it is “supposed to make some counterpart payment so that we (Ghana) can have all our vaccines”. In his lengthy evaluation of the Mahama government specific to the health sector, Dr. Twum-Nuamah shared a brief anecdote about purchasing child health record also known as “weighing card” for his newborn child at the Police Hospital. Due to the apparent lack of weighing cards, parents have to buy the cards for their children. Those who cannot afford have to make use of exercise books or notebooks (Parliamentary Hansards, 28/02/2017).

The next day, that is March 1 2017, Minority Chief Whip and member of the Health Committee Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka (MP, Asawase) in response to Dr. Kwabena’s evaluation, touted the resilience and responsiveness of the immunization regime in the country, using our polio-free status as basis. In his exact words,

“…If you take (the) case of poliomyelitis today, we are poliomyelitis-free. We cannot have a zero poliomyelitis in the country when the immunization regime is weak…”

- Parliamentary Hansards, March 1 2017

Dr. Kwabena insisted that the country “could not meet her budgetary demands to purchase vaccines.” (Parliamentary Hansards, March 10 2017). Now as Chair of the Health Committee, Dr. Twum-Nuamah can exercise the powers of his committee to summon relevant ministries and agencies toward a resolution of lack of polio vaccines and other related child health issues.

Columnist: Nii Armah