FULL STATEMENT: NALAG PRESS BRIEFING AT ERATA HOTEL, ACCRA ON 15TH JUNE, 2020
- June 17, 2020
- Posted by: NALAG
- Category: COVID-19
NALAG PRESS STATEMENT ON NATIONWIDE ENGAGEMENTS OF PRESIDING MEMBERS (PMs) AND SELECTED ASSEMBLY MEMBERS ON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: “A COLLECTIVE FIGHT AGAINST THE SPREAD AND STIGMATIZATION”. AT ERATA HOTEL, ACCRA ON 15TH JUNE, 2020
HON. MMDCEs, PMs AND ASSEMBLY MEMBERS
MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC)
NATIONAL SECRETARIAT STAFF
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
Before I proceed, we have been informed of the unfortunate demise of our colleague, Hon Anthony K.K Sam who until his death was the Mayor of Sekondi Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly. He passed away on Friday, as a result of a COVID-related death as was confirmed by the President of the republic yesterday, in his “Update No. 11: Measures Taken against Spread of Coronavirus”. Let us observe a minute silence for him and those who have unfortunately lost the battle to COVID-19. May the Almighty God find a place for them to rest in peace. Amen
Decentralization and Local government administration have been the main pillars around which economic, political and social developments are given expression by bringing governance closer to the doorstep of the people. The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies-MMDAs (Local Authorities) are the vehicles of decentralization and local government administration.
The critical role of local governments has been put to test in the wake of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and our local authorities, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies made up of Chief Executives (Mayors), Presiding Members, Assembly men/women (Council men/women) have proven equal to the task and discharged their mandate creditably well with the support of Assembly staff and departments of the Assemblies. Our local governments continue to work out their efforts to curb the spread of the virus, providing vital information and helping fight the fallout of the pandemic.
Local Authorities are at the fulcrum around which the battle against COVID-19 is being fought. We engage directly with the localities and the vulnerable as well as the institutions with capacity to dealing with the deadly virus.
As governments design national level responses to COVID-19, the role of local government has been to ensure compliance and to provide the necessary infrastructure to contain the virus.
NALAG commends Central government for the direction so far, we like to specifically commend the leadership of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo. He has become the example of the world in the fight against the Pandemic. We further commend the President for the decision to build 88 District Hospitals and 6 more Regional hospitals to cater for the health needs of the citizens in these areas. We also want to commend the Minister responsible for Local government & rural development, Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama for activating the MMDAs to respond to COVID-19. Our engagements with the MMDAs reveals a great deal of support from Central government.
NALAGs position on the Pandemic is that EDUCATION IS THE MEDICATION FOR A DISEASE WITHOUT A CURE and that it is necessary to ensure that Assembly members across the length and breadth of the country be equipped with the knowledge on COVID-19 to enable their involvement in offering education and sensitization as well as community mobilization in the fight against the pandemic. Following this, and in line with our mandate to ensure deepening local government administration and decentralization, NALAG has engaged Presiding members and selected Assembly Members from all 260 MMDAs within the 16 administrative regions of Ghana to offer education on the pandemic as facilitated by professionals from the various Regional Health Directorates and to ascertain at first hand the impact of the pandemic in the localities, what the challenges have been and what good practices are there to share moving forward. We were cognizance of the fact that Chief Executives were at the frontline and had enough information.
The meeting afforded the leadership of the Association the opportunity to interact with its key stakeholders and ascertain their views and experience on the COVID-19 pandemic responses at the local level. It also aided us to have an informed position as an Association to know the way forward and how effective our members can be engaged in fighting COVID-19 and its fallouts. It also gave us adequate understanding of what have transpired across the Regions and MMDAs and how best that has helped in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Conference is therefore aimed at sharing the facts and issues emanating from the local level through the engagement of our members but just before that, let me commend MMDCEs and Assembly members across the country for exhibiting good leadership and showing tenacity in this period of crisis.
Key issues identified
- In some cases, District health directorates enter communities without involving the Assembly members. This creates difficulty for cooperation from the community members in adhering to the established protocols.
- Some communities treat suspected cases as confirmed cases – this is basically as a result of lack of understanding of the procedure and this often create stigmatization where suspected cases even return negative.
- The manner in which recovery cases are released into the community creates unnecessary suspicion and stigma for the individuals involved. This goes to the extent of affecting their economic life.
- Stigmatization has been an issue for the management of the cases at the local level. Many of the confirmed cases who have recovered are not welcome by their respective communities. This is as a result of lack of understanding of how the disease spread and how it can be treated. Those who have recovered are not effectively integrated into the community properly. They are sent back to the community without proper social orientation and debriefing.
- Lack of consensus building among the stakeholders at different levels especially the local community. There have been instances where health personnel have been turned away from the community because they did not engage with the relevant stakeholders within the community especially Assembly Members, traditional authorities and opinion leaders. This is hampering the smooth operation of contact tracing of suspected cases of COVID-19.
- The participants agreed that some level of education has been done by the District Assemblies in every Region but it has not gone down to the grassroots hence the general apathy and misconception about the disease.
- There are some communities who are in denial of the existence of the disease hence the general lack of commitment in adherence to the COVID-19 prevention protocols and guidelines.
- Revenues at the MMDAs have declined sharply.
The Call on Various Stakeholders
Getting communities mobilized and engaging every citizen and their organizations are the preconditions of preventing and controlling the spread of the virus. The principle of success is making everyone responsible, engaging every unit and making officials answerable and requiring people to shift the ways they live. In view of these;
- Central Government should extend the stimulus package to the MMDAs since the internally generated revenues of the Assemblies have dwindled drastically amidst increase in expenditure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Government should consider extra funding for MMDAs to render other social services as provided
- The Public health emergency teams should liaise more with Assembly Members in the various communities in order to have easily engaged communities. This will enhance inclusivity and promote comprehensive front for the fight against the pandemic.
- The Ghana Health Service (GHS) staff should work hand in hand with the Assembly Members when they want to enter a community to educate or contact trace a suspected case. This will ensure that the unfortunate incident of suspected persons refusing to cooperate is reduced or avoided.
- The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE)/ Information service departments should intensify education and sensitization in our localities
- Assembly Members and Unit Committees Members should liaise with Chiefs, security and health personnel to deal with non-compliance to the protocols.
- Religious organizations are entreated to use their various platforms to educate their members on the pandemic and urge them to adhere to enhanced personal hygiene and social distancing protocols while washing their hands under running water and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
It is our considered opinion that the above, when ensured, will compliment Central Government’s effort to curb the spread. The fight can be won at the local level.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo announced on May 31, 2020 a strategic, controlled, progressive and safe easing of the restrictions. Stage one of the easing of restriction which now allows a limited number of persons to worship at religious centers with limited number and the reopening of our schools to final year students, now puts enormous responsibility on Local authorities ( Assembly members, Presiding Members and Chief executives) to now ensure total compliance. We therefore like to call on Assembly members specifically to mobilize their unit committee members and the communities to liaise with the Public Health emergency committees to apply moral suasion to get the population to comply.
New Ways of Doing Things-Technology
The threats of the novel coronavirus- COVID-19 also present an inherent opportunity for MMDAs to consider new ways of doing things. As an example, MMDAs should now think of the possibility of having virtual meetings where the usual physical locational meetings may not be possible for reasons of COVID-19. It is our hope that in the future, our laws will consider such virtual meetings as legal.
We should also think about digitizing our services to enable clients access same from a remote location to reduce the usual human interface. A digitized and a mobile enabler platform can be used for revenue collection, building permit processing and host of others.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us commend the efforts of our health professionals. They are at the frontline. Yes, it is their profession but they have sacrificed their lives and family to the service of humanity in this period of world crisis. They still go to work and take care of COVID-19 patients knowing fully that they can easily contract the virus. We salute our medical doctors, nurses, supporting staff and indeed all health workers. We also salute the resilience of the Ghanaian people and the cooperation rendered to local governments.
We now ask Ghanaians to volunteer to help the fight against COVID-19. If this is going to be with us for some time, the cost will be unbearable. Let us activate communal spirit which our fore fathers bequeathed to us to assist in contact tracing and other COVID-19 related issues. It is our collective prayer that this too shall pass to enable us resume our normal ways of doing things.
Don’t forget, the battle can be won at the local level.
In the meantime, we ask all Ghanaians to Mask Up! Stay Safe! Spread Calm and Not Fear.
HON. BISMARK BAISIE NKUM
All Media Houses
All Presiding Members
All Assembly Members
All Other Stakeholders