World Health Day 2022: Refocusing to save our planet, environment

As all peoples of the world are once again called upon to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the World Health Organization, in observing the 2022 World Health Day, the Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG) wishes every Ghanaians in all walks of life, a life of good health and prosperity in all their endeavors.

The HRRG is a vibrant non-governmental organization comprising media practitioners, lawyers and human rights activists, advocates and defenders who are committed to bringing to light human rights abuses and ensuring full protection and justice served the abused especially where it concerns children, women, girls and the minority groups in Ghana and beyond.

As we celebrate this all important day, we are called to reflect on the very essence of our humanity, good health of mind, body and the environment which finds expression in this year’s theme, ‘Our Planet, Our Health.’

This chosen theme is very much reflective of the fact that, all economies are gradually escaping the devastating impact of the COVID-19 and facing a far more dangerous phenomenon of climate change and all societies are already reeling from the effect of changing or distorted weather patterns in one form or the other.

On this note, the HRRG wishes to use the opportunity to heighten the awareness of all citizens of Ghana the debilitating effects of climate change and global warming. It is not a distant subject matter but already becoming our reality in our everyday lives. The chosen theme is a concrete reminder that the health of our environment and planet as a whole impacts our people’s health directly, positively or for the worse.

As fate may have it, humanity is rendering our planet sick and ironically, we have the potential to restore its health to her better days. The recent extreme weather conditions we are experiencing in our communities are obvious manifestations of how impacting climate change has become. Changing weather patterns are first of all resulting in drying up of water bodies, threatening food security which also caused high costs of living for the ordinary Ghanaian, instances of deluges with its accompanying unpreparedness by policymakers are but a few to mention.

A case in point is the recent unforeseen Keta Tidal Wave on November 7 2021, in the Keta Municipality of the Volta region which sadly, has displaced over 3000 persons with many seeking shelters in neighbouring towns and villages with several others dead.

On this occasion, we add our voices to the many calls on the government of Ghana to do more to help ease the burden of the victims of the rising sea-levels robbing them of their livelihoods and lands. To buttress our case, is a publication by the Ghanaian Times, weeks after the unfortunate incident, residents of Fuveme claiming the government has reneged on its promise to allocate parcels of land in the adjacent communities to them. They have largely received donations and relief items from benevolent citizens.
Continuously threatening our environment are the activities of illegal mining and small-scale mining known in local parlance as ‘Galamsey.’

For a couple of years now, the Government has launched what we believe to be an unrelenting battle against this menace which is polluting our precious water bodies and rendering rivers not conducive for usage of all kinds. Communities can no longer irrigate farms from these water sources because of harmful chemicals like mercury which helps these miners dig for gold and other minerals indiscriminately.
Humans and livestock no longer find these water bodies potable enough for consumption. Farmlands are now sorely becoming mining sites, increasing the phenomenon of food shortages and food scarcity, underpinning the harsh reality of our planet and environment in serious crisis.

We sincerely believe government’s campaign has stalled because elements closer to the corridors of power are heavily involved in this exploitation meaning that the state’s efforts accrue only minimal gains. Nonetheless, we charge the government and appropriate state institutions to be resolute in this battle so, posterity can judge us rightly.

Ghana as well as the world is yet to completely root out the COVID-19 pandemic. Without overstating the obvious, COVID-19 has weakened many economies, making a lot more people poorer today than before and rights of already vulnerable persons largely women and girls. Thanks to science, the world has seen vaccine development at an unprecedented pace offering renewed optimism to many who were in absolute despair. 

This nonetheless, has created the challenge of vaccine inequality where the global north and other first world nations have acquired enough vaccines to protect themselves from the scourge of the disease while Africa and other nations in the global south have fully vaccinated only around 10 percent of their populations.

As COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in Ghana giving a sense of the country cautiously emerging out of the woods, we would like to see the government secure more vaccines to inoculate the populace from the severity of coronavirus as we learn to ultimately live with it.

As accountability is a tenet in all democratic societies of which Ghana prides itself of, Ghanaians have been seeking answers to the expenditure of the Covid-19 funds accrued after government established the Ghana national COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) which received immense response from the public and international bodies. For instance, the bank of Ghana donated GHC10 million to that effect as well as financial support to the tune of US$ 100 million was equally received from the World Bank, among others.

We call on the Government of Ghana to heed to these calls and offer proper accounts in regard to how the COVID-19 relief fund, which was established for a good cause, was utilized.

As at March 2022, Ghana has recorded close to 2000 deaths related to COVID-19, with infections standing a little above 161,000. The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has successfully vaccinated over 13 million Ghanaians. This will stand as a good indication that we are on the right track in fighting the worst effects of the disease and urge authorities to do more.

A healthy society breeds a healthy planet with the right policies implemented. On this occasion we sincerely believe in the power of unity and a common cause in keeping the planet safer and healthier for future generations. As the WHO estimates, more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. 

At the Human Rights Reporters Ghana we say our planet, our health: Re-imagine our economy, society, and health. #OurPlanetOurHealth.

Author: Joseph Wemakor
The writer is a seasoned journalist, a staunch advocate of human rights and the Executive Director of Human Rights Reporters Ghana. 

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