The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has taken delivery of a 25-seater pontoon boat to boost access to health services in more than 140 island communities in the Kpando, Krachi West and Biakoye districts in the Volta Region.
Christened, "Akpini Queen", the locally built boat, valued at $70,000, was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Fitted with medical supplies, a radio transmitter and receiver, life jackets, among other installations, the boat will provide mobile health services for over 36,000 inhabitants along the Volta Lake.
Speaking at a handover ceremony at Akosombo in the Eastern Region yesterday, the Ghana Mission Director of the USAID, Ms Sharon Cromer, said the gesture formed part of efforts to collaborate with Ghana to achieve universal health coverage in the country.
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According to Ms Cromer, studies had shown that the maternal mortality rate in the Kpando, Biakoye and Krachi districts stood at 310 deaths per 100,000 live births, a situation which, she said, was largely due to the absence of timely health interventions for residents of the deprived area.
She, therefore, expressed the hope that the intervention would benefit women and children in the area and enhance efforts to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the country.
"The island communities in your districts have historically been difficult to access. This pontoon boat will finally bring health services to your doorstep.
"It will transport healthcare workers to your communities, deliver essential health commodities and support immunisation campaigns to keep your children healthy,” Ms Cromer stated.
She appealed to residents of the communities to own the boat, along with USAID-funded Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds in the region, to ensure continued improvement in healthcare systems in the area.
Cost of operation
The Deputy Volta Regional Director of Public Health, Dr Yaw Ofori Yeboah, expressed delight at the initiative and stated that it would contribute immensely to reduce the huge operational cost incurred by the GHS in extending health services to the deprived communities.
"A huge chunk of our budget goes into hiring private boats to make it possible for our staff to visit those communities. Aside from the dangers that come with it, the cost factor makes it impossible for us to enhance outreach, leading to some avoidable deaths, especially of pregnant women," he stated.
Dr Yeboah gave an assurance that his outfit would adopt a continuous maintenance culture to ensure the sustainability of the facility, adding: "We will provide adequate funding to ensure that the medical supplies are always intact."
While expressing profound appreciation to USAID for "its regular" support towards the promotion of quality health care in the country, a Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Kingsley Aboagye Gyedu, expressed commitment on the part of the Ministry of Health to provide the necessary equipment to run the facility.
He said the development would set the tone for the MoH to take steps to extend the project to cover other water-locked communities in the country.