Send Ghana, a civil society organisation (CSO) with interest in the social sector, has rallied its network members to petition the Presidency and Parliament for the establishment of a Public Health Emergency Fund to enable the country to respond adequately to epidemics.
The petition was signed by almost 600 individuals and other CSOs.
According to SEND Ghana and its partners, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it put on the health sector underscored the importance of such a fund.
“Such a fund will be critical in helping increase resilience in Ghana’s health system to prepare and respond with urgency to current public health risks and future epidemics and pandemics,” the petition said.
As the petition further states, even in the absence of COVID-19, the country had dealt with re-occurring pandemics such as cholera, meningitis and influenza, and that it was presently dealing with monkeypox and marburg.
Such a fund, SEND Ghana said, would enable the country to prepare adequately for pandemics and make the health system more resilient to such grave health issues.
“Responding too late to disease outbreaks costs lives and affects economic growth, national security, and the well-being of people. The poorest and most vulnerable people in developing economies such as Ghana are the most affected,” the petition stated.
On how to allocate resources to the fund, the group suggested that the COVID-19 Trust Fund could be turned into the PHEF, with the COVID-19 Health Recovery Levy becoming the source of money for the PHEF.
The petition pointed to the sad reality that “the country does not have a dedicated fund for public health emergencies when they occur. We usually rely on consolidated, contingency or other funds, which have proven insufficient. In other situations, we rely on donor funding, which is often unavailable when we need it most.”
The petition said the idea of a PHEF was nothing new but originated from the government itself through a policy to set up the PHEF as part of the country’s Medium-Term National Development Policy Framework (MTNDPF) from 2022 to 2025.
It said Ghana scored poorly in the 2021 Global Health Security Index, which was a measure of countries' preparedness to prevent epidemics.
“Ghana scored 27 out of 100 with no change from 2019. This means that there is more work to be done, especially in the areas of building infrastructure, acquiring medical logistics, developing human resources, and investing in research.
Epidemic preparedness and response financing and the implementation of the Public Health Act and subsequent regulations are crucial for the protection of the population’s health,” the petition explained.
According to the petition, a fund to help the country deal promptly and adequately with pandemics was in line with the directive principle of state policy enshrined in Article 34 of the 1992 Constitution which promotes the right to good health.
“Article 36 (10) of the same Constitution makes it mandatory for the State to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of all persons in employment,” the petition said.
The petitioners also cited the country as a signatory to the Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15 per cent of its total expenditure to the health sector, saying after more than 20 years, the country struggled to meet half of the target.
The petitioners appealed to the government to show the political will to have the fund established for the benefit of all including the future generation.
“In our view, the gains of increased preparedness funding outweigh the cost of dealing with the impact of epidemics. Ghana’s economy is taking a significant hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious disease outbreaks. “Continuous investment in epidemic preparedness helps safeguard economic development and protect the well-being of citizens,” the petition said.
It stressed: “There is no better time than now to fund epidemic preparedness. One of the surest ways to attain this is to set aside a dedicated funding source.”
As the petition states, “Establishing a Public Health Emergency Fund or expanding the existing COVID-19 Levy to include epidemics prevention and response at all levels would be a great opportunity for Ghana’s readiness and preparedness to deal with any future epidemics. With a strong political will, this can happen!”