Full Text: Open letter to Akufo-Addo on locked up medicines at Tema Port by CCM Ghana

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Your Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Aldo,

On April 8, 2024, a coalition of six Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) whose area of operations focus on HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, organized a press conference to bring to the attention of the public the ugly situation of locked-up health commodities donated by the Global Fund.

The commodities, valued at about US$45 million dollars, have been wasting away at the port for more than 12 months now. They comprise medications for treatment of Tuberculosis, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACTs) for the treatment of Malaria, Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDTs), kits, and GeneXpert Cartridges etc.

When the news first broke out, there were lots of reactions in both traditional and social media across Ghana and the international community. Many were those who described the spectacle as unfortunate and unacceptable. As it was to be expected, Government responded to the news item and the Ministry of Health (MoH) hurriedly, organized a press event to take delivery of 14 containers out of the 182 containers.

Promise was then made that the remaining cntainers will be released within one week.

There were some sceptics who described the removal of the 14 containers as a sham that was meant to throw dust into the eyes of public. These sceptics pointed to the record of Government in dealing with similar situations in the past.

However, the leadership of the CSO Networks, weighed the gravity of the situation and came to the conclusion that no government, no matter how insensitive it may be, would enact Public Relations gimmicks with an issue as delicate as medicines for its citizens.

The CSO Networks, therefore, placed a moratorium on all planned public demonstrations and gave Government the opportunity to redeem itself. Well, as it turned out, the sceptics were right. Eight long weeks after the removal of the first set of containers, we are told that only an additional 48 have been released.

All the remaining 120 containers are still gathering moss under the scorching sun, torrential rains and corrosive winds at the port. Meanwhile, our health facilities have run out of stock of these same Commodities

To describe the current situation as bizarre would be an understatement. The question many in the international community are asking is: “Is this a case of corruption or incompetence or sheer wickedness on the part of those who have the responsibility to clear the commodities?”

Some are also asking whether the Government of Ghana no longer has control over its ports, because they do not understand how a Sovereign State cannot clear donated health commodities from its ports?

According to the Global Fund, in the history of the Fund, they have never witnessed anything as dumbfounding as what is currently happening in Ghana. As a matter of record, on May 29, 2024, some senior officials of Global Fund held a side meeting with Ghana’s delegation to the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) that took place in Geneva, Switzerland. and categorically reprimanded Ghana for its conduct with respect to the locked up commodities.

The officials described the current situation as an “existential threat” to the relations between the Fund and Ghana and without mincing words, they called for an expedited resolution of the matter, else the severing of ties. The Ghana delegation was led by Health Minister, Dr Bernard Okoe-Boye and it included Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye (Director-General of Ghana Health Service), Dr Franklin Asiedu Bekoe (Director of Public Health, Ghana Health Service) and Dr Aboagye Dacosta (Chief Executive Officer of National Health Insurance Authority).

The parliamentary delegation comprised Hon. Dr Nana Ayew Afriye (Chair of Health Select Committee), Hon. Kwabena Mintah Akandoh (Ranking Member), Hon. Adwoa Safo and Hon. Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare (Members).

From the Ghana Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) of the Global Fund, the delegation included Mr. Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin (Acting Chair) and Mr. Samuel Hackman (Executive Secretary).

Your Excellency, in view of the exigencies of the situation, the Ghana CCM has decided to publicly appeal to you to intervene in this matter by calling on you to support the Ministry of Health to work out a lasting solution to this seemingly intractable impasse.

Our appeal to you is based on the fact that we are aware that when the ‘Heal Komfo Anokye project faced a similar situation in April 2024, Government intervened and facilitated the clearance of the locked up items.

We, therefore, hope that you would take action to save the situation as Ghana cannot afford to lose the support of the Global Fund, at this critical moment, without a proper transitional plan. For the records, the inspiration behind the Global Fund is our own Kofi Annan (of blessed memory) who during his tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations pushed for its establishment to support resource-constrained countries in their fight against HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Ghana is on record to have been the first country to sign a grant with the Global Fund. To date, the country has received about $1.3 billion from the Global Fund. This is expected to hit $1.6 billion in about three years time because the Fund currently has a $248 million grant agreement with the country to support our fight against the three diseases (with additional $100 million for health systems strengthening) spanning between 2024 and 2026.

Global fund is, thus, a very strategic partner for Ghana and we need to desist from inactions that may jeopardize our relations with the Fund. Since 2002, Ghana has never experienced this kind of challenges in receiving Global Fund commodities. What has changed? We are aware of the fiscal paralysis facing the country, post COVID-19, especially with our macroeconomic indicators.

But, this cannot be an excuse for the current situation we find ourselves. This is because we are also aware that agencies such as UNICEF are encountering similar challenges with their health commodities at the ports.

On the basis of the above, but without prejudice to our appeal, we would like to notify you that on June 25, 2024, we shall exercise our civic rights as citizens to stage a public demonstration to register our displeasure about this whole saga.

We are not enthused about Government’s handling of this matter. As a country, we should never have sunken so low to this level where we have now become the butt of international jokes and gossips. When we hit the streets, we shall formally present to you a petition that contains a litany of other issues currently marring our relations with Global Fund and other Donors.

Thank You, Your Excellent, in anticipation of Your swift action,

SIGNED

Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin

(Acting Chair, Ghana CCM)