On just the face value, yes. But Ghana’s government could be causing more harm with a good initiative that has abysmally poor execution.
On Friday, March 27, 2020, the president of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced a lockdown in two of the county’s regions as concerns around the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 heightened.
Following the announcement, a series of government policies have been laid out to ease the pressure on Ghanaians as the world deals with the virus. These measures include taking away the water bills of the people of Ghana for the next three months (April, May and June), reducing electricity bill by 50 percent, bonuses for frontline workers, free transportation for health workers among other things.
Key among these measures was one that was announced a week into the lockdown. President Akufo-Addo through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) announced free food for the vulnerable citizens in the lockdown areas.
Speaking in a national address to the people of Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said:
“… through this programme, the Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection and Local Government and Rural Development, and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), working with MMDCEs and the faith-based organizations, have begun to provide food for up to four hundred thousand (400,000) individuals and homes in the affected areas of the restrictions. This begun in Accra today and will begin in Kumasi tomorrow. It will come in the form of dry food packages and hot meals and will be delivered to vulnerable communities in Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa.”
This was a confirmation to what Ghana’s Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Cynthia Morrison had disclosed a few days earlier in her address at the Ministry of Information’s press conference.
The price Ghana has to pay
Feeding 400,000 Ghanaians does not come cheap. However, as Ghana’s President HE Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo famously said in a quote that took the world by storm, Ghana knows how to bring her economy back to life; what they do not know how to do it to bring people back to life.
Simply put, money is not a problem when it comes to measures being put in place to halt the spread of coronavirus in Ghana.
In an interview with an Accra-based radio station Starr FM, the Communications Director of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), George Ayisi disclosed that Ghana’s government spends GH¢5 on a pack of food for the 400,000 Ghanaians being fed daily. Those figures sum up to a whopping GH¢2,000,000 (approximately the equivalent of $350, 0000).
“We are spending GHC2 million a day on the hot meals we are providing and it is not one person alone preparing the meal. It is spread across many people,” Mr George Ayisi told Starr FM.
The money figures around feeding the vulnerable have started generating a conversation on social media in Ghana but the bigger problem for the West African country may not just be about the sum involved in the feeding. It could be much bigger.
Feeding the vulnerable amidst a coronavirus pandemic
Some Ghanaians still do not understand how coronavirus works and it’s been evident in several displays by both illiterates and the well educated among the Ghanaian population.
One viral video in a report done by TV3 tells a funny but sad story. With a group market women discarding all social distancing directives to fight over their packs of tomatoes as traders, one woman’s excuse was that none of them had been to Italy so they were safe to be that close together. Ghana at the time had confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country.
Another case was a Twitter trend of people holding a ‘surprise party’ under the excuse the president said up to 25 people could hold a gathering when Ghana had 566 confirmed cases at the time of the party.
Coronavirus is still a topic of what the president says citizens should do against what they should not do rather than being proactive with the reality at hand for most Ghanaians.
The story is no different when it comes to how the execution for the free food being done in most parts of the affected regions.
With a high probability of having less food than the number of Ghanaians in need in vulnerable communities, people will mostly rush in a bid to get their share of the nation’s free pie.
One viral video shows a group of young men and women forcibly struggling over rice that was sent to the community according to the narrator in the video.
“For us the old ladies, they say they won’t give us. The young men and women are killing us here,” the narrator says.
Another one reported to be in Asokwa, Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana shows congested queues with people close by one another with no measure around halting the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.
Videos of such incidents have been all over the place since the government of Ghana started helping the vulnerable with free food to ease the financial burden during the lockdown. The effect is an equivalent of ironically spending that food money to aid the spread of coronavirus in Ghana.
Take a note from South Korea’s ‘Patient 31’ and analyse the disastrous consequences this method of food sharing could have on the country. If there is one unknown coronavirus victim in the pack of people struggling to find something to eat, Ghana could be up for a fight that she is not ready for. The earlier this process is tweaked to fit the best recommendations on social distancing, the better.
An effort made
On Easter Monday, Ghana’s Minister of Information took to his Twitter page to encourage people to observe social distancing directives when distributing the food items.
“We encourage all who are involved in distributing relief packs to the vulnerable to ensure social distancing is observed. Else your efforts will be counterproductive.”
The tweet that was accompanied by photos for illustration seemed more like a noteworthy opinion from the minister. At this point and looking at what has been the case with enforcement in the country, this should be a directive with repercussions if not followed.
A change in strategy could also be the alternative. Spending GH¢2m a day is GH¢14m in 7 days. How about a one time distribution of the 5kg rice with some oil? People are already complaining about the lack of options in the food being distributed anyway. Also nutritionists could suggest a better combination but the main point is taking a look at the strategy of feeding that brings people together on a daily basis.
With community spread having a greater percentage compared to imported cases in Ghana’s 566 confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 cases (as at April 12), Ghana could be doing herself a great disservice of spending GH¢2m a day to spread a virus the world is blowing cash to eradicate.