''AN APOLLO PROGRAM FOR ACCRA'' - VPWA Executive Director call..

Post date: Jun 06, 2009 1:21:39 AM

On July 16, 1969 Commander Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon.  At that time he made the statement "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" 

On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy of United States announced his support for the Apollo program with the goal of landing men on the moon by the end of 1969.  This objective was met with 6 months to spare. 

This seemingly impossible feat was accomplished only because the leader of the Country made it a matter of priority, the landing of a man on the moon.  At the time it seemed that President Kennedy had taken leave of his senses.  In spite of the nay sayers this goal was met within the allotted time frame of eight years.  

What I would like to propose at this time is establishing the goal of eliminating malaria in Ghana within 3 years.  This is a more achievable objective than sending a man to the moon.  The reason, it has already been done in the United States, the Country that sent Commander Neil Armstrong to the moon.  Perhaps we should take a page out of their play book on this one.  First of all, the Americans did not waste any time or national treasure treating the symptoms.  They attacked the cause.  The cause of malaria is not the malaria parasite, it is the mosquito.  Removing the mosquito from the environment will eliminate malaria.  When you break the transmission cycle, the malaria parasite present in the human population will be expelled from the body within about two years.  The method used by the Americans to eliminate malaria was a massive aerial application program. This method achieved the objective of dramatically decimating the mosquito population as to destroy its ability to maintain the transmission cycle.  It has been some 60 years now since the United States was declared malaria free and it continues to be malaria free until this day. 

At present here in Ghana and most African countries, there is a policy of treating the symptoms of malaria, with prophylactic pills, bed nets and indoor residual spraying.  The marginal effect of this reactive policy only institutionalizes failure.  Meanwhile, our country continues to sacrifice its most precious resource on the altar of malaria, its children and young mothers.  In developed countries disease and death affects the old and consumes perhaps 90% of the national medical resources, treating it's citizens with expensive medications and operations for the last 10% of their life span.  However the average life span is twice as long as in the developing nations.   

In Ghana the death rates are much higher in the young, than the old.  This is neither a natural nor an acceptable outcome. This is the reason for an average life expectancy of only 40 or 50 years. 

The annual expenditure of 100 million dollars now dedicated to treating the symptoms of malaria in Ghana is perhaps 10 times more than is necessary to eradicate this disease.  However over the past several years the problem only gets worse, in spite of grand statements to the contrary.  One definition of insanity is the expectation of a different outcome, each time you perform the same act.   I can only conclude that the institutions charged with dealing with this problem are certifiably NUTS!   

What I would like to propose is a pilot program to eliminate malaria from the City of Accra, with the goal of making Accra the first malaria free City in Sub Saharan Africa, employing the same methods used to achieve success in the United States some 60 years ago.  A successful outcome of such a program will have a more far reaching impact than the Apollo program, in that it will serve a humanitarian objective of saving lives, the most precious lives, that of the young.    

With this thought in mind, if Ghana government or corporate Ghana will not come together to fund such a project, perhaps the funding source should logically be the PMI or Presidents Malaria Initiative that has dedicated some 17.3 million dollars for malaria in Ghana this year alone.  All that would be necessary is 3 million dollars to eliminate malaria for one year in the City of Accra, a City that contains 10% of our population.  They can use the rest of the funding to satisfy their bed nets spree.    

At this time I would like to ask anyone that has an opportunity to gain the ear of President Obama on his trip to Ghana this coming July to make mention of this proposal for 3 million dollars for this pilot program.  If you live in Accra like me, you will be doing yourself a favor.

Hayford Siaw

Executive Director, Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA)

Tel :  00233 21 928245

        00233 24 3340112