Along the main road that runs west from Takoradi, a newly inaugurated community health centre lies nestled just to the North of one of the roadside communities.
Beahu is one of the 181 communities that the Western Region Coastal Foundation (WRCF) has reached through its community dialogue platform. At the beginning of each year, volunteers and partner organisations engage with communities throughout the six coastal districts of the Western Region, and speak with residents to record the issues currently topmost in their minds. Sometimes the issues communities raise have to do with the effects of Ghana’s oil and gas industry which lies just off-shore. But more often than not their main worries are the same as anyone – access to proper healthcare, a good education for their children, and well-paid rewarding work.
In Beahu in 2016, the issue that was raised time and time again was the difficulty in accessing healthcare. Barnabas Annan had been selected to represent Beahu at WRCF’s district level dialogue meetings, and he was so motivated by the issue after the discussion that he ran for the local district assembly on a platform to improve the community’s healthcare.
Instead of feeling bogged down by the pressures of his newly elected role, Barnabas used the platform created by WRCF’s dialogue to hold his own community meetings and met with the district’s Director of Health. He managed to secure the donation of two plots of land from community elders, and began soliciting donations of GHC 5 (about £1) from community members to rent a building for the clinic.
Barnabas credits the WRCF dialogue platform with giving him the access that he needed to service providers in order to secure change for his community.
“Because of the conversations, we were able to do some things. We now know our rights. Through the conversations, when we go to the assembly now, they open their doors to us.” Barnabas said.
A Shorter Journey to a Healthy Future
Before the opening of the new health centre, Florence Ntaado was one of the many patients forced to spend GHC 15 (£3) to travel to a neighbouring village’s clinic 40 minutes away. The cost of the journey wasn’t the only thing that made it difficult to get medical care, either. “In the past, I could spend the whole day at the clinic in Kwesimintim, which ate into the time I had to give to the children or run errands,” Florence explained.
For Florence, having her voice and worries heard through the dialogue platform was a real gift.
“When my husband first mentioned the conversations and what they seek to do, I thought it was a very good thing that they [WRCF] are doing,” Florence remembers. “In the past, it was very difficult to get your views or concerns across to the right channels, and being that access to healthcare was a primary concern for me, I was very happy to hear that having a CHPS was raised. When the Assembly member appealed for contributions, it was very easy for me to donate.”
Beahu’s new Community Health Planning Services (CHPS) was officially opened in October 2016. The head nurse Rita currently sees about 10-15 people a week, and is expecting a sharp increase in numbers in the next few months when the clinic officially joins Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme. In the meantime, she regularly treats malaria and diarrhoea cases, and ensures that Mums and new babies receive all their pre- and post-natal checks. Since the clinic has opened, Florence has already visited several times to get medicine for chest pains, and to get her children checked when they had rashes and stomach-aches.
“Now [at the Beahu CHPS] I experience shorter wait periods, which enables me to attend to the needs of the children and pursue other activities. It also saves me a little bit on finance.” Florence smiles.
“Before, sometimes it was normal that with malaria, because it was 2 cedis or 5 cedis to get a car, the person would just sit in the house. Some people were too lazy to go, and pregnant women wouldn’t bother to come to the hospital either. But now they come to weigh their new-borns and get their inoculations. Though it [the service] was free, they wouldn’t take a car to the hospital, because of the cost of the journey. But now they’re getting their care.” Barnabas finishes proudly.
The Western Region Coastal Foundation’s Dialogue Platform has to date directly reached over 60,000 people in the Western Region’s six coastal districts. WRCF plans to reach an additional 120 communities during the 2017 dialogue series, which includes conversations at the household, community, district, and regional levels. In addition to the dialogue platform, WRCF designs, implements, and provides technical expertise for projects that aim to increase skills for employment, growth and jobs, resilient communities, and women’s economic empowerment.