Global Health and Education Initiative in Ghana

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HUMJIBRE, Ghana — Routine handwashing leads to a decrease in infection and consequently, an increase in school attendance among children in Ghana, according to a GHEI News article. GHEI News, a blog for the Global Health and Education Initiative, is a media outlet for the non-profit organization. GHEI organizes health and education programs, including handwashing seminars in the BAB District of Ghana.

GHEI is based in Humjibre, and began offering programs to the area in 2003. Realizing the need for community programs in Ghana, Diana Rickard, a medical student, partnered with an assemblyman to establish GHEI.  From 2004 to 2014, the programs have grown significantly and have resulted in the implementation of several health and education programs.

“It is GHEI’s vision that our programs will allow children to grow and reach their potential as healthy, educated young people, and eventually lead their own communities out of poverty,” stated Elena Szajewski, GHEI’s communications officer.

Today, GHEI’s health programs include handwashing, malaria prevention, sexual and reproductive health, health facility delivery incentives and medical training. GHEI places an emphasis on the importance of women’s health. “Teenage girls living in developing countries who become pregnant are faced with a very real threat to their health, as well as tremendous social consequences,” states the organization’s website. GHEI offers programs to help prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The organization also offers new mothers reproductive healthcare classes and incentives to deliver babies in clinics. Many of the programs are also designed to help women establish a sense of empowerment.

In addition, GHEI offers extensive malaria prevention programs. According to the World Health Organization, Ghana has 160 confirmed Malaria cases per every 1,000 of the population. While WHO and UNCIEF programs have decreased Malaria cases significantly, education about prevention of Malaria remains necessary.

In a GHEI video clip, Nana Kwadwo Twum II, a Humjibre chief, explains how one of his children often suffered from Malaria until GHEI provided relief. “Every three months, I always send him to the hospital. But sleeping under the mosquito net, he’s never ill,” said Twum. GHEI health education informed the chief’s family, among other community members, in Malaria prevention. The organization has also  provided the community with 5,500 bednets and information sessions about the importance of bednet usage.

GHEI’s education extends beyond health education. Other programs give students the opportunity to supplement their academics with lessons in reading and exam preparation. The organization also offers tutoring, scholarships and a community library to further aid students.

A 2012 UNICEF assessment reported low enrollment of girls in school as a primary issue.  As a result, UNICEF urged community leaders to encourage school enrollment in their communities. GHEI responded by allocating 60 percent of  its scholarships to female students and girls’ empowerment activities. Since the implementation of GHEI’s education programs, GHEI has seen pass rates on the test to enter senior high school jump from 4 percent to 98 percent among female students.

GHEI, funded via individual contributions, gives 94 percent of its donations to health and education programs. The organization has only ten full-time salaried staff. Each year, volunteers may apply online to participate in summer volunteer programs.

GHEI has expanded some of its programs to communities near Humjibre, but refuses to sacrifice quality for expansion. “GHEI will not sacrifice our values and is not interested in starting a new program or moving to a new area unless we are certain that we will have the capacity to follow through and reach our program goals,” stated Szajewski.  Currently, the organization focuses on strengthening existing programs and diversifying its current funding.

Jaclyn Ambrecht

Sources: Ghana Health and Education Initiative, GHEI News, UNICEF, World Health Organization, Elena Szajeweski
Photo: USAID

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