GHANA— Ghana has undertaken a three-day community preparation simulation exercise to assess community preparedness, emergency protocols, and response plans.

This exercise was co-organized by Ghana’s Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST), a novel collaboration between the UK Health Security Agency and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

The event also brought together stakeholders from the health, local government, disaster management, animal, and environmental sectors, gathered from Ghana’s Eastern region.

This community preparedness simulation exercise was designed to help stakeholders identify strengths, gaps, and goals that would help increase community readiness by collaborating with the health workforce to detect, alert, and respond to public health concerns before they escalate.

The study also aims to demonstrate the relevance of communities as the basic cornerstone for coping with public health emergencies in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In his opening statement, Prof. Francis Kasolo, WHO Representative to Ghana, emphasized on the critical role of communities in the prevention, preparedness, and response to any form of emergency, regardless of the crisis.

He went on to underline the need to develop and push resources in communities towards an effective outbreak response. This would guarantee that the capacities and resources are in place at the community level for early identification and containment of health emergencies.

Dr. Claire Bayntun, UK-PHRST Head of Capacity Strengthening, on her part, expressed her pleasure about the partnership between the World Health Organization, Ghana’s Ministry of Health, and other partners.
She went on to say that their technological knowledge contributed to the tabletop simulation exercise, which would assist local communities in being better prepared for future epidemics.

Dr. Franklin Aseidu-Bekoe, Director of Public Health, spoke on behalf of the Director General of the Ghana Health Service, emphasizing the need to use community resources and knowledge to limit possible health risks and safeguard lives and livelihoods during a health emergency.

Stakeholders in the three-day tabletop exercise stressed the importance of ongoing community engagement in ensuring educated, engaged, and empowered communities during, before, and after health emergencies.

Genevieve Dakurah, a midwife-in-charge at Kweakese CHPS in the Akwaku Afram Plains North area, also emphasized the need for consistently engaging and providing important community actors with essential information to assist health actors in responding to crises in a timely way.

The activity, the first of its kind in Ghana, drew 65 participants from three (3) villages spread over two districts in the Eastern Region.

Participants were guided through a series of scenarios meant to assess community preparedness for potential health epidemics.

The results of this effort will help more than just Ghana; the lessons learned will be useful for public health interventions in many other nations.

Countries must examine their operational readiness for preparation programs regularly, particularly at the community level, to better recognize and respond to epidemic and pandemic potential outbreaks.

The findings will help to inform the WHO Community Readiness Checklist, as well as provide transferable lessons for other communities and nations.

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