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‘Ancient disesases still killing children’

The state of the old outpatient department of the Child Emergency Unit of Korle Bu. Picture: BENEDICT OBUOBI
The state of the old outpatient department of the Child Emergency Unit of Korle Bu. Picture: BENEDICT OBUOBI

Ghana still loses a sizeable number of its newborn babies to “diseases of antiquity” as a result of its inability to prioritise investment in education on child health, the Head of Child Health Department at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Prof. Ebenezer Badoe, has said.

He mentioned rabies, respiratory infections, jaundice and malaria as some of the top killer diseases that were almost unheard of in developed countries but still killing children in Ghana.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Prof. Badoe blamed the prevalence of those preventable diseases on limited facilities and trained staff in health centres, lack of prompt care and education on how to improve child health and a general disinterest in child health among Ghanaians and the government in particular.

He said it was worrying that about 60 per cent of children in the country were iron-deficient, a condition, he said, was easy to prevent but had been allowed to worsen.

Consequently, he called for deliberate efforts to boost the iron levels of children for their immune systems to be strengthened against diseases.

Dog bite

Prof. Badoe said although Ghana’s infant mortality rate had declined to 25 deaths in every 1,000 births, the number was still a blot on the country’s health sector when properly interrogated.

“Take for example, maternity. There was a month that 17 people died, but if you are in England, you may get only one or two deaths in a year.

“So when you compare, then you realise that there is something wrong with your system,” he said.

Prof. Badoe said although he had been confronted with all manner of diseases in children, “seeing things like rabies hurt me”.

“Rabies is like a disease of antiquity. In the western world, the whole of Europe, not a single case of rabies is recorded but here, occasionally, a child will come and die of rabies.

“That one, when I see it, it hurts me because it is preventable,” he said.

That, he said, was a factor of lack of education and, thus, called on parents to vaccinate their dogs and children appropriately to avoid needless deaths.

Using the Child Emergency Unit to buttress his point about the disinterest in child health in the country, Prof. Badoe said it was “hurting” that the Outpatient Department (OPD) of Korle Bu’s Child Emergency Unit operated from a 22-bed capacity space in spite of recording an average of 30 to 50 cases on a daily basis.

“This is because children do not come first,” he said.

“Maybe because you have not brought a child here, but if you have brought a child here, that is when you come face to face with reality,” he said.

Prof. Badoe explained that unlike other countries where child health was a top priority, it was sad that the government was not making children first when it came to investments in the health sector.