Wednesday, September 28, 2011



Sitting on the beach
Basking in the sun
Relishing naught
Head full of thoughts

The usual crowd moving up and down
Bustling, hustling amounting to nothing
Same old stories told over and over again
Yet making no sense and none seeming to care

Emptiness, dejection, frustration and regrets
Hollow so deep and wide as I have never felt before
Frustration for the hopes and dreams abandoned
Regrets for the faith lost and the paths not trodden

Once we conquered the oceans
On the exciting waves we rode
The many raging storms we battled
On these strange shores we perched

Alas! Glimpses of a new haven I see!
A reminder of a born-champion
And one destined to conquer
Alas! Hope and faith restored

Like a phoenix rising from ashes to life again

I shall search through the rubbles and build again
Destiny has been kind to us, offering us a new day
A brand new opportunity to redefine ourselves
And etch our names in the history books

“Dreams are not what you see when sleeping; dreams are the ones that keep you from sleeping. “ – unknown source
Do you still remember your childhood dreams? Is it what’s keeping you from sleeping?
Mine never did! Fascinating is how I will describe my childhood dreams.
As a child, I had dreams of becoming the best mechanical engineer Ghana has ever seen! Ambitious? Hmmm.
My story goes this way; I started out early trying out all sorts of things; disassembling and reassembling my toys and even repairing electrical equipment all in my childhood days.
At the age of Twelve, together with my friend, we built our first electric toy car! That may be exaggerating matters but the point is we made something out of ordinary wood and an electric motor in an old toys car. We used plastic bottle tops with serrations to make some kind of a gear and we used AA batteries to power this car. It was even more fascinating when we realized that the ‘car’ could be reversed simply by reversing the terminals of the battery. My friend is now a marine engineer and I am still studying not to become an engineer but a doctor. Ah, such a noble profession. Hmm.

What could have changed, what went wrong (what got better if you asked me now)?
Dreams abandoned!
I remember getting admission to my dream school to pursue mechanical engineering in the year 2004. I even remember paying part of my fees. So what changed? Trust me; what changed still remains a mystery to me. The only thing I remember is that I was not influenced by anyone to make a choice I didn’t want. I remember my parents telling me, you can be whatever you want to be. And by God’s grace, I will be whatever I chose to be then.
There are times in our lives when we have to abandon what we have planned in order to align ourselves with what God has planned for us. I am not suggesting that this is the case in my situation.

I have had some worrying times, sometimes regret and frustration too because I chose to tread this path. There were times when I felt disheartened and this was worsened by the monotonous routine of listening to patients tell you their problems every day and the feeling of helplessness when you know you cannot help them much. The hospital can be such a depressing place for people like me.

Once I rode the waves and battled the raging storms when I was king of the world! Then the only defeat I knew was being second best in class. Medical School can make such a mess of even ‘immortals’ (a term we use for the academically sound)
In my view, these were what really made me doubt whether I was in the right place or not.

Was I a square peg in a round hole? Now I am fully convinced I am not. Thank God for the opportunity to know life and be a part of making it better. Thank God for the opportunity to see and appreciate some of the finer things in life.
Contrary to all surrounding morbid conditions and seemingly helplessness that I still sometimes feel, I do get the time to enjoy sights as wonderful as watching the joy of a mother cuddling her child and singing to it. As lovely as the baby smiling back as if it ever understood the out of key notes being sung. I think of the shrill cry of the baby I helped bring into this world (not literally as I only helped the mother deliver!) and the look of innocence on the child’s face.

Even in seemingly helpless states, I think of giving my all to help the young girl with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus who would probably die and the man with the end stage renal failure who had the chance to prepare his will and passed on comfortably. When I see the bleeding man, my heart bleeds not, not because I don’t care enough but because I have to stay focused to help save his life. When that man with cancer passed on, I tell the family without crying not because I’m cold and stonehearted but because they need someone to stay strong for them. In these ‘mishaps’, Perhaps God is using me for a purpose greater than my childhood dreams. In situations like these perhaps I can and must do my best to help in ways that I can cos’ it may be the purpose for which I am here. I have become certain of this; that whiles I am here and while I do my best, I shall find fulfillment.

These same old stories told over and over again and which did not make sense can then be interpreted in different ways. In ways that making no sense doesn’t mean having no relevance. Perhaps, it is our outlook in life and what pertains to it that makes it worth it or not. There are countless stories of how ‘mishaps’ led to groundbreaking discoveries like Sir Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin talk of Thomas Edison and the electric bulb, just to mention a few. To the atheist, it’s a matter of chance or probability. To the man of faith, it is the work of a superior being. Whatever we call it, it isn’t always so simple and straightforward. It is how we see it that matters. That is, our attitude.

So I encourage you my reader, search through the rubbles, pick up the pieces, rebuild and have faith! Believe it is worth your efforts and never give up. Above all, trust God and believe that He is the master architect and builder. When you’re lost, trust that He is the chief navigator and saviour.

Now when I think of my dreams, I like to think of it this way; that I stay awake to save lives. I must play my role very well then.
Live your dream friends!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

on my birthday - a poem by my Zambian friend

The skies shed of the dark, Africa cheers, the birds beat their wings and the sun grows beyond the horizon.

A new day, with a name inscribed in the precious august winds of sunrise, a memory in the promise of the sun's rays and the sweet melodies of the busy birds.

Another milestone in a long journey called life, shall we pause for a while and say Happy Birthday John!

By Webby Phiri
Lusaka, Zambia

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dare to dream

Candle in dark dusk
Scroll lie on the desk
Ink in the hand, stuck
The writer now busks
Seemingly awestruck!

Staring at the blank page before me
Reminiscing good times miles away
Miles away yet only hours away
Hours away, yet near anyday

God has been gracious unto my soul;
Looking skywards, I could reach my goals
Wings that carried me across the Nile ,

One cold evening in Nairobi,
I was blessed to see a friend smile

Such a pleasant smile reminding me of what I can be and all that I can do!

Friday, July 8, 2011


The Federation of Ghana Medical Students’ Association (FGMSA) has held its 16th Annual National Congress which was celebrated under the theme; Family Planning and Poverty reduction; a two way mirror.
The event took place from 25th to 27th March, 2011 and was hosted by The University of Ghana Medical Students’ Association in Accra, Ghana.
The FGMSA is a body encompassing all medical and dental students in Ghana. The Federation currently has three full member Medical Students’ Associations (MSA’s) namely; KNUST-Medical Students’ Association (KNUST-MSA), University of Development Studies-Medical Students’ Association (UDS-MSA) and University of Ghana Medical Students’ Association (UGMSA). University of Cape Coast Medical Students’ Association current has observer status in the Federation.
FGMSA Annual Congress serves as a platform for our General Assemblies during which elections are held to elect new executives of the Federation and also audit the federation’s accounts. It also serves as a platform for socialization and interaction amongst medical students in Ghana.
This year, we were privileged to have some alumni around. Particular mention must be made of Dr. Chijioke Kaduru, a past National Executive Council Member of FGMSA and currently the President of IFMSA.
Delegates arrived on 25th March and the Business meeting of the federation commenced right away in the evening right into the next day. This year’s election proved very competitive as we had two (2) females and one (1) male vying for the presidency. After a close contest, Ms. Hannah-Lisa Akunyumu-Tetteh was elected as president of the Federation for the next administrative year. Mr. Jones Gyedu Ampofo, immediate-past president handed over to her and her new executive council before the general assembly thereafter.
The next day was packed with so much fun activities. In the morning, there were series of debates on hot topics such as abortion and family planning. I was particularly stunned at medical students putting forth intelligent arguments and making strong cases either for or against motions of the debate. It was a battle of wits and it only confirms my assertion that, medical students are multi-talented! Later in the day, there were sporting activities like volleyball, basketball and football. There was so much fun around and for once, I even forgot school was still in session! Again, it was hard to believe the stuff that medical students are made of. The night of 26th was Party night and thus was spent at Citizen Kofi, a popular hang-out spot in Accra.
Delegates attended a thanksgiving service on 27th March, 2011 at Accra Chapel and departed to their various schools the same day.
All in all, the 16th Annual FGMSA Congress was a tremendous success. The Organizing Committee did a marvelous job in organizing a fantastic National Congress.
Kudos to Mr. Jones Gyedu Ampofo and his team of out-gone executives. Congratulations to Ms. Hannah-Lisa Akunyumu-Tetteh and her team of National Executive Council.
Viva IFMSA! Viva Africa! Viva FGMSA!!!

By John G. G. Banin
NPO, FGMSA (2010)
IFMSA Publications Team (2010/2011)


The District Clerkship is to introduce students to the types and management of medical problems seen in district hospitals and also learn the administrative problems of running the hospital. To learn about various issues affecting health care at the district level.
The district rotation started from 14th June, 2011 to 3rd July, 2011. We were attached to the Volta River Authority Hospital in Akosombo.
Volta River Authority Profile
The VRA was established in 1961 under the Volta River Development Act, Act 46 of the Republic of Ghana with the core business to generate and supply electricity. As a result of the Authorities operations, riverine communities were displaced therefore the need for community development initiatives by the VRA.
The VRA runs hospitals at Akosombo, Aboadze and Accra. The hospitals serve VRA staff, neighbouring communities and corporate bodies.
The VRA administers local authority functions in accordance with Legislative Instrument 42 of 1989 in Akosombo therefore Akosombo Township is not under any Traditional Council or District Assembly.

Asuogyaman District Profile
Akosombo is a sub district of Asuogyaman District. Asuogyaman District is one of the twenty one districts in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Until its creation, the area forms part of the former Kaoga District Council whose capital was Somanya. It covers a total estimated surface area of 1,507 square kilometers and constitutes 5.7% of the total area of eastern region and ranking the 10th largest district in the region with its capital at Atimpoku.
The District is bordered to the North by the Afram Plains District to the South by North Tongu District West by Manya Krobo District, to the East by South Dai District. The vegetation of the District is a mixture of Forest, Semi-Forest/Re-growth and Savanna.

Physical Characteristics
The topography of the District is generally undulating, with the following highlands – Tatabum, Krobo Kyei Bulu, Adomi and Kpegyei. The main water bodies include the Volta River and Lake, River Adabo, River Opotoku, the Baware, Anyinase River and the Bubuakan. Indeed it is on account of the fact the major settlements are located on either side of the Volta Lake that the name Asuogyaman was adopted for the District (“Asuogya” – Water and “man” – state).
The mean annual rainfall is about 1130mm with a bimodal distribution and a maximum daily amount of about 67mm. The period May-June constitutes the major wet season, with the minor wet season occurring during the period September-November. Annual temperature is about 28C with average maximum and minimum being 37C and 19C respectively.
The vegetation of the District is a mixture of Forest, Semi-Forest/Re-growth and Savanna.

Economic activities
Farming constitutes the main economic activity of the majority of the people, with maize, cassava, and plantain being the major crops. Fishing is also done mostly by the Battors. Banana is grown for export as well as exotic vegetables (e.g. green pepper). These ventures (banana and vegetables) are undertaken by private companies. Manufacturing, commercial and service activities are also carried out mostly in Akosombo, with the Akosombo Textiles Limited, Volta Hotel, Volta River Authority and Volta Lake Transport Company Limited being the main operatives. Akosombo also houses the most viable market in the District.
The Asuogyaman District has vast potentials for investment particularly, in the area of tourism, agriculture and industry.
Traditional Administration in Asuogyaman District is centered on chieftaincy as practiced by its constituent ethnic groups – Akwamus, Anums and Bosos. The Akwamus are of Akan stock whilst the Anums and Bosos are of the Guan stock.

The potentials include the following:
 Beautiful landscape and scenery along the Volta River and Lake.
 Extensive lake shores for development of beach resorts.
 Small islands located in the Volta Lake especially in Atimpoku.
 Water transport and river sport in the lake.

The potentials are in the areas of:
 Suitable soil and abundant water for cultivation of exotic vegetables for both domestic consumption and export, and farming generally.
 Fish farming, oyster and lobster production.
 Conducive vegetation and available water for livestock farming on a large scale.
 Existence of a 3-Star Hotel at Akosombo and other motels at Atimpoku.

The District has comparative advantages for location of industry in the following ways:
 Existence of inland port at Akosombo, for river transport between the South and the North of the country.
 Easy access to power from Akosombo and Kpong Hydro-Electric Power Plant.
 Proximity to Tema, Accra and Lome.
 Large deposits of clay for brick and tile industry.
 Large deposits of talc at Anum and Boso.

Traditional Administration
Traditional Administration in Asuogyaman District is centered around chieftaincy as practiced by its constituent ethnic groups – Akwamus, Anums and Bosos. The Akwamus are of Akan stock whilst the Anums and Bosos are of the Guan stock.
Each of the ethnic groups has a hierarchy of chiefs headed by a paramount chief followed by divisional chiefs, and village chiefs.
Thus the District has three Traditional Councils – Akwamu, Anum and Boso Traditional Councils, each headed by the Paramount Chief and made up by the Divisional chiefs.
The presence of significant Krobo and Ewe settler groups makes the District greatly heterogeneous.

The team participated in the daily routines of the doctors; we attended morning meetings to discuss cases admitted by the doctor on duty the day before. On Thursdays, there was either a presentation by a Representative from a Pharmaceutical Company or by a member of the medical team of the hospital.
There were general ward rounds on Fridays and we participated in the ward rounds. We asked questions and shared our opinion on cases presented.
During our period of stay, Motec Life UK, a team of professionals committed to Orthopaedic and Trauma care visited the VRA hospital in Akosombo and we took the opportunity to join them in theatre for various Orthopaedic surgeries (mainly knee and hip replacement surgeries). We had presentations and lectures by members of the team. The team was led by a graduate of UGMS, Dr. Paul Ofori-Atta.
A. Pharmacy – In the Pharmacy unit, the head of the Unit Mr. Eric Borbi introduced us to the process of drug procurement and the activities that the unit does like storage of drugs, drug preparation and dispensing of drugs.

B. X-Ray – The X-Ray unit of the VRA Hospital offers other services like Ultrasonography and ECG in addition to the various X-ray services offered.

C. Resources Unit – The resources unit has the records department. We had a session with the Hospital Bio-statistician, Mrs. Okaibea. We were taken through the type of data collected from patients. Mrs. Okaibea stated that the hospital is in the process of computerizing its system of data collection and processing.

D. Laboratory – The Laboratory department offers services in Haematology, Biochemistry and Parasitology. It also serves as the Blood Bank for the hospital.

E. Reproductive And Child Health Unit – We visited the unit and familiarized ourselves with the activities of the unit. We were however unable to join the unit on an outreach because the time coincided with another program on our schedule.

Most of these were done in the first week of our stay.

Water Treatment Plant
We were taken through operations at the water treatment plant first on the Mimic Board and later shown round the site.
Akosombo Management Committee
We met with the Town Manager and the Secretary of the Akosombo Management Committee (AMC) and learnt about the history of VRA and the need for the establishment of AMC, its mandate for operations and the local authority functions performed by AMC.
Meeting with the Health Servises Administrator, Director, Medical Superintendent and Hospital Administrator
We met with the Directors and Managers of the hospital who took us through the organogram of the VRA hospital, the mission and vision statements and values to be upheld by all workers as well as the organizational structure of VRA with particular emphasis on the Health Services Department. We learnt about the working conditions and appraisal system (Balanced Score Card) in use in VRA.
Hydro-Generation Unit
We were taken through the operations at the Hydro-generation unit in theory first and then sent round to appreciate the work being done every day. We learnt about the safety measures and protocols in place and efforts being undertaken to ensure safety of both humans and equipment at the unit.
Environmental And Sanitation Unit
After discussions with the environmental officer (Health Inspector) on the various subunits of the department, we were taken round to see the Oxidation Pond, the Slaughter House, Markets, Refuse dump site and the various housing units in the Akosombo township. Akosombo township is generally clean and the housing units are adequately ventilated. The township is generally divided into Community 1 and 2. A total of 72.6km of drains runs through the town for liquid waste drainage. The department also organizes health screening for food vendors and keeps a book with annual medical examination records of all food vendors in the town. The health inspector also visits bars and restaurants to ensure that the environment in which food is prepared and sold is hygienic.
Environmental Sustainability And Development Department
We visited the subunits; Public Health section in Akosombo, Dredging unit and weed control unit at Ada. Dredging of the Ada estuary is important in the control of Bilharzia as is the weed control program. Dredging deepens the river bed and makes it unfavorable for the snail vector of Bilharzia to thrive. Dredging also opens up the estuary which introduces saline sea water into the river. This also helps in controlling the parasite. Aquatic weed control done by the public health unit helps in eliminating the snail vector too. Weed control by VRA is mainly by the chemical method using Glyphosate but other methods like mechanical and biological means are also used. These are some activities the VRA considers as corporate social responsibility for the communities in which they operate in. These are riverine communities that have been affected by the construction of the dam.
District Health Directorate
We paid a visit to the director of health services for the Asuogyamang District, Dr. Engmann. She gave a profile of the district and the various functions and members of the District Health Management Team (DHMT). The team was introduced to the heads of the various units of the DHMT. We interacted with the staff to know activities carried out in their office on a day to day basis and also learnt about some of their challenges. In all our interactions, it seemed obvious that the major problem facing the district was that of staffing. The number of health professionals in the district is inadequate for the heavy load of work.
Some of the functions of the DHMT that she elaborated on are:
 Management of health in the district
 Planning and implementation of specific district health activities within the broad framework of national and regional goals
 Monitoring and evaluating health and health related activities in the district.
 Development and institution of health management information systems in the district
 Management of financial resources within the health sector in the district
 Human resource development of the health sector in the district

1. There should be more bins at the hospital area especially around the reception.
2. An ambulance at the hydro generation with a mini clinic to manage emergencies before transfer to the VRA hospital.
3. At the slaughter house, resting of the animals before slaughter should be enforced.
4. Efforts should be put into standardizing the slaughter house to further enhance provision of wholesome meat for the public
5. Residents of the township should be encouraged to separate their waste, so that final disposal of waste would be more efficient.
6. The refuse collection unit of the environmental health and sanitation department should be provided with more refuse trucks to make their work more efficient. The workers in the department should be encouraged to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).
7. Although the VRA is currently doing a lot of work in the prevention of bilharzia in the lakeside communities, more efforts should be put into provision of other sources of livelihood for these communities so that fishing would not be the only option available to them.
8. A lot more work needs to be done in the area of educating the surrounding communities and the nation at large on the symptoms and first aid management of febrile illnesses especially in children. This will ensure that morbidity is reduced and also workload on doctors will be reduced.
9. The ‘Onipanua’ medical boat should be continued as this would go a long way to provide medical services to the island communities.
10. A handset for the Power Line Carrier (PLC) in the Medical Students’ Hostel should be provided for easy communication with the hospital especially to aid in transportation of medical students.
Our deepest appreciation goes to God almighty for granting us this opportunity to study and keeping us safe.
On behalf of UGMS Korle Bu, we want to say a big thank you to the Volta River Authority and staff that made our stay a wonderful and educative one.
Particularly we want to say a big thank you to the Director of Health Services of VRA, Dr. (Mrs.) Acquaah-Arhin for putting necessary measures in place to ensure our comfort. We also want to thank Dr. Fiadoyor the medical superintendent of VRA Hospital, Akosombo.
We especially want to thank Mrs. Mercy Owiredu-Antwi, secretary to the director of health services for her warm welcome and hospitality. Also to the medical doctors; Drs. Ato Davies (clinical coordinator), Christian Addae, Boadu and Levi Nii Ayi Ankrah.
Our appreciation to the drivers and the kitchen staff.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Home Sweet Home

The sweet smell of the plush verdure
The croaking sound of the bullfrog in the bush
And the shrill sound of the cricket from the thicket

The familiar faces of Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Children out playing in the sun and dirt
‘Boxer’ and ‘Pusher’ wagging tails to welcome me

The sights, sounds and ooh… smell too!

An unmistakable cue of my destination;
Home sweet home!
Forever my abode of serenity.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Magic

Our fathers did such and such deeds
We proclaim such and such a creed
What I have I am able to share with you
Years ago, it might been for very few

I call it my magic!
Lack of it is tragic!

No one could have preserved traditions
Precisely so for many generations
Without it’s inordinate power!
It’s my magic and superpower

I call it my magic!
Lack of it is tragic!

It is drawn not from sorcery
It’s been used throughout history
It’s the amazing magic of reading
And the wondrous power of writing!

Seems to me everything revolves around READING and WRITING nowadays.
I have allowed myself sometime today to think of something we can and probably should take for granted. Yet I have burdened myself to think of it and write my heart out. Probably someone might also take some time and share in my thought. I call it my magic! READING and WRITING is my magic!
Through the power of the art, you make out letters from a page and suddenly they form a word and make sentences and convey an idea to you.
It’s almost like magic the best of doctors in this world had to read volumes and volumes of ideas and knowledge stockpiled in volumes of books! You start out in kindergarten rhyming all the rhymes and singing all the songs. Now suddenly you must read volumes and comprehend it and produce a good account of yourself. You must read all those reports or better still, write all those reports yourself.
Now you have an idea you must market to your prospective clients. Maybe talking to them will do but even that will require that you WRITE something called a letter to them so they can READ and understand you. May be you have to make a presentation too…Now that will involve some READING and WRITING.
You have a friend you haven’t heard from in ages, you log on to facebook and suddenly you can chat with them. How? You must WRITE your message and READ their message in order for you to communicate.
You want to turn on the microwave and heat some food. How? You must read out the instructions and turn it on to the desired level!
For the greatest poets, writing seems mystical! In writing, they convey a deeper sense of emotion they might never have been able to do. It’s like getting wings to fly out of your own body to communicate with numerous other souls. When we lay our hands on a good piece, we often fall adrift into a new world, exploring ideas and places where our physical bodies may never be.
Consider for instance reading a fiction novel. The impossible is made to seem possible and for a moment as you read, you enter into a new different world. Not that you are hallucinating for once but just exercising your brain.
In itself, it is an exercise for the brain as dormant areas of the brain are suddenly awoken to react to the changing scenes, landscapes, machines and the likes.
It’s a good thing you share in this magic too otherwise, you wouldn’t have been able to make any sense out of my little piece. And see; now you share in my thoughts… Mystical! I am sitting right behind my PC and you in your room or in a cafĂ© yet our minds are communicating on a single subject at least for this moment. Magical!
Let’s empower the young ones to love the art. It’s their way of fitting into this new world.
Thank your teachers who taught you to READ and WRITE. Thank them for imparting this ‘magical ability’ to you… Stay blessed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Dark nights, bright stars

On a cold and lonely winter night,
When I looked up, I saw not the moon
The sky darker and sinister tonight
I missed the noise, heat and the light of noon

On my lonely bed, I cuddled myself tight,
Hoping that this feeling would pass quickly soon
Wishing the night would pass to end my plight.
In the solitude was terror and swoon

I looked out my window and saw a bird
At last, a companion for the night

“Look up again friend”
The winged fellow seemed to whisper.
So I looked up, I looked up and saw the skies again
I saw the skies again and saw the bright stars lit up the skies
“The stars are brightest when the skies are dark!” chirped the bird

It dawned on me in extenso, the vanity of having fear of the unknown and giving in to uncertainty. I began writing this piece on the weekend before my MB.ChB Final Part 1 Clinical Exams in Paediatrics. It has taken me exactly three months to finish it up. In between, I have done a lot of traveling and forgotten about it and fallen prey to this canker again. I hope you find some inspiration from my writing.

Dark nights. We all have them. Those days when everything seems dark and gloomy. The days when we can virtually sense doom upon us. Days when we feel lonely and deserted. Days we often label; ‘the day I will never forget’. We have had it before, each one of us and these days will continue to be with us.
Such days will come upon us because we have been forewarned about them. Tribulations will come, we will walk through the deep waters, and we will walk through fire and rain. We will part with loved ones and never see them or enjoy the warmth of their embrace again. Our purses may not always be swollen with legal tender to barter for what we wish for or even what we need.
We never have promises of a trouble-free life. What we have are assurances. Assurance that morning surely comes after night. Assurances that we will never be alone even to the very end of the age. Faith, hope and love.

Ever found hope in the midst of adversity?
Ever seen the little ray of light at the end of the dark and murky tunnel?
Ever stopped complaining and looked not around but up and suddenly felt hope restored?
Ever exhaled desperation and inhaled goodness and peace because your burdened heart was touched by its maker?
Ever had reason to hope beyond all reason and against all odds that surely, morning comes after night?

I don’t consider myself a poet even though I love poetry. I am always looking for ways to communicate in a deeper sense what I think about every day and what I have come to know in a score and 5 years of my life.

I once heard the quote; “Your attitude (how you respond to any situation) defines you altitude (how far you go in life).” This is almost axiomatic in every sense of the word.
Once again let me draw my reader’s attention to a popular analogy used in many a motivational speech. It is the concept of the optimist and the pessimist views. The former says the glass is half full, the latter says it is half empty.

We have at our disposal countless stories in history of how seemingly disadvantaged individuals turned the tide around in their favor.
• It is said that when Thomas Edison’s 2 million dollar house went up in flames, his son (Charles) found him sitting and looking at the flames. Charles is quotes his father as saying this when he said he didn’t know the whereabouts of his mother; "Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives."
The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew."

The above is archetypal of a strong attitude and amazingly, it defined his altitude in life and carved a niche for him in the annals of not only science but of world history too.
There are several countless stories of hoping against hope that has turned into real success stories in the history of our race.

We are called to comfort others with the comfort that God Himself has comforted us too (2 Cor 1:3 – 4). There is a comforting voice comes and reveals our folly to us. Suddenly, we look out the window and see the stars shining so brightly and we forget the absent moon. We find an opportunity to reflect in our moments of ‘apparent’ loneliness. We see a dark world and we light our candles and shine (for a light placed on a candle cannot hide – Mat 5: 15, Luk 11: 33). We think outside of ourselves and radiate God’s beauty, his love and goodness unto others making their life wholesome, uplifting and virtuous too. Our misfortune seems to disappear into thin air when we head that voice of hope, the bird chirping out in the dark. God always has a message for us despite our obduracy at times. It may be the voice of a friend, a preacher man, a song or from reading from Holy Scripture. He promised never to leave us lonely in this world.

In our moments of darkness, let’s us not ask ‘why me.’ (That’s a harsh thing to say isn’t it?) “I tell you, no one who has lost a father, mother or sibling following me will forfeit his reward in the life to come” – Mat 19: 29.

Let’s us not get weary doing good. For the dark world around us only waits in earnest expectation of us. In expectation of us to shine bright as the stars do. We may not be noticed just as the stars sometimes fade from the skies (actually they don’t fade but because of the moon, we don’t see them always). We may not always be treated good in return for the good that we do (but let us remember even our master was rejected by his own even though he came unto his own)
We may be even victims of suspect for our good intentions but we should not tire doing the good that is in our hearts (indeed, God never tires forgiving our very own sins every day. We find His mercies new every morning! Yes, every morning despite our many failings that went by without us noticing them)
We hear them every day; plagued by war and disease, now flooding, protests and bombings, religious clashes and political rifts and hostilities.
Let us always remember, when the world seems awful and a bitter place, we are the salt of the earth. We are meant for seasoning the ‘bitter world’ and shining light in this dark age.

God bless you for your time and please remember; when the nights are dark and sinister, when the moon shines not in the skies and the world around you seems lonely; that is the time you have to light up your candle and shine so bright.

You may want to check out these stories later on;

Monday, January 10, 2011

Health for Gold

‘Galamsey hijacks our future’

It used to be a myth, now it is an obvious reality from which is developing a nuisance we have to grapple with every day. Its effect could even devastate the future of a town.
When we were young, we heard stories of how gold used to be so common in our community that you could see this precious mineral in the gutters and gullies when it rained. As I type out these words, I wish sincerely wish it was just as we heard it; a myth!
Why such strong sentiments against discovery of such precious minerals in my area you may ask me?
My story begins now.
I come from Akrokerri, a small town in the Adansi-North District of Ghana. Akrokerri is about 7 miles from Obuasi; a town nicknamed the Golden city due to the quantity of gold that is mined there. Ashanti Goldfields Company Ltd started from here and had its largest gold mine and head office here in those days until it the merger which saw its transformation into AngloGold Ashanti. Obuasi still remains an important town on the map of Ghana because of its supply of mineral wealth for Ghana’s economy. Akrokerri may be considered as a suburb of Obuasi in a sense. What has made Akrokerri popular is the location of one of the four Colleges of Education in the whole of Ashanti Region here. As a matter of interest, it was during the 23 years of my father’s stay at AKROTCO (a popular abbreviation for Akrokerri Training College as it used to be known) that I was born. This was where I spent most of my childhood until my father’s retirement some five years ago. We have since moved to the main town some minutes’ walk from the Campus. Akrokerri boasts of one of the best Colleges of Education in Ghana, a feat that has earned it the nickname, ‘Adansi University’.
The Obuasi gold deposits occur along a zone of intense shearing and faulting within Precambrian greenstones. Mineralisation in Obuasi comprises two main types: quartz veins containing high-grade free gold and the main sulphide ore in which narrow veins contain gold trapped within arsenopyrite. Ashanti Goldfields Company was established in 1897 in London and underground gold-mining started about ten years after.(1)
There is a myth held by the local people that the gold underground is some kind of a god with head, hands and feet. The people in my area believe this gold-god has its head right beneath their town. I am not sure my folks are aware of the geology outlined in the previous paragraph but to them, the mineral wealth is from this god beneath. I cannot recall when young men in Akrokerri became as adventurous and daring as to begin digging for the head of this god! Maybe that should have been the title of this article; Digging for the god’s head.
As is common in parts of Ghana where mining is done, illegal surface miners known as ‘Galamsey’ set up their own business and begin their own exploration for the bullions. Galamsey is a Ghanaian lexical item for illegal surface mining. The activities of Galamsey operators have often resulted in conflicts between mining companies that operate in such areas and the youth in the affected communities. (2)
There have been numerous reports of accidents of various sorts including cave-ins, drowning in deep ditches, etc at Galamsey sites.
Despite the dangers involved, every day I see enthusiastic young men each day carrying their tools, walking past my house to their work site. The numbers keep increasing every day.
What could be pushing such young men to take such risks? Social injustice has been cited as a cause. People don’t find it easy getting jobs in this part of the country. Some also claim it is because mining companies cheat the communities they operate within and hence the youth must virtually take back what belongs to their community.
That cited, I must state my opinion on this matter now. I have lived in Akrokerri virtually all my life with the exception of time spent in high school and university. Even now, I come back to this place anytime I have a break from academics. One thing is very clear, I find it true that genuine job seekers are lacking in my beloved Akrokerri. The human resource is also lacking as most indigenes do not take education serious. Most young people dream of getting rich over-night and look for ways of achieving this dream. Some of us deem ourselves lucky to have attended school from basic level through to Junior High school level here and still managed to pass to University level.
Illegal surface mining (Galamsey) has many implications on the environment and the health of the people. Aside the morbidity and mortality associated with accidents at these sites, myriads of health problems arise because of these clandestine activities.
Most of these miners are illiterates and have no idea the hazards or effects of the chemicals used in the process. Mercury is used in the purification of gold. This can have serious debilitating effects on the health of the miners and the community at large. Some of the mercury also goes into the underground and surface water sources around. This pollutes the water and poses a serious threat to both flora and fauna in the whole community.
Environmental issues include erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals from the mining processes. Just to re-emphasize again, groundwater and surface water contamination.
In some cases, additional forest logging is done in the vicinity of mines to increase the available room for the storage of the created debris and soil. Contamination resulting from leakage of chemicals can also affect the health of the local population if not properly controlled.
It all started out as very simple and all mechanical with workers using axes, mattocks, shovels and instruments as such. It has become more sophisticated now as electric pumps and other machines are used in addition. This has also added on to the nuisance. The noise from such machines is sometimes unbearable. As if this were not enough, now workers run shifts. This means some work during the day and change over during the night! That translates into 24 hours of complete clamor and clatter! That constitutes a social problem too; Noise pollution.
The most devastating effect from the above is the loss of vegetation and usable landmass. The scars these nefarious activities leave on the environment is as devastating as the health implications it brings. It is not an unfamiliar sight anymore; the mudflows and pits, dirty ponds serving as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and the general mess of a once beautiful Akrokerri. We are gradually losing our forests and even home environments too.
I almost burst into tears one day as I looked on from a distance at my friend’s house. He was a classmate in Junior High school. Their house was surrounded by what seemed like twenty groups of Galamsey workers. It seemed like an island in a stream. Ponds of water had surrounded it and I could just imagine the sort of problems they had to grapple with every day; the loss of privacy and the general nuisance from the hum and clatter of these machines not to even mention the army of mosquitoes the ditches created will be serving. Here, you could identify all forms of pollution, air pollution from the dust, soil and water pollution from the chemicals, and noise pollution which I found particularly disturbing. All the vegetation that once surrounded the house was gone! The land was bare and desolate, such a pity. I used to complain a lot when these activities were being undertaken about 70 meters from my house and here I was, as close as they could get near Mr. Agyin’s house.
If I am not exaggerating, the ever-increasing proportions of this mess amounts to a calamity. The misery of it is that, the people have come to accept such an ignoble activity as a welcome development. Not being judgmental, in my opinion, this trend hasn’t brought any significant wealth to those engaged in it nor any development to the community. The money the laborers get from their daily activities is spent on alcoholism and other risky lifestyles. Not to sound like a prophet of doom but it seems to me the future for the town hangs in the air. I say this because those engaged in galamsey here were once the major workforce of the town. Carpenters, masons, drivers, farmers and most disheartening of all, students across all levels of the academic ladder. Drop-out rate is on the ascendency as most junior high school kids don’t continue to the senior high school level. Unless there is an intervention from across sectors, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel for this town.
Obviously, it is not just the physical health of the miners they are trading for gold here. They are trading the physical, mental and social well-being of the whole community for bullions. The future of the community is being traded for a few bucks in the pockets of few.
Government through the district assembly, the traditional council, the youth and all stakeholders must wake-up, cooperate and find ways of developing the capacity of the youth here. They need education and empowerment. After this, force maybe applied if persuasion should fail in the greater interest of the community itself. The mineral wealth could be extracted in a more appropriate and environment-friendly way for the development of the area. The health of the innocent by-stander should be safe-guarded. It is a human right issue since it concerns survival of this generation and even future generations of this community that has produced eminent personalities such as P.V Obeng, a renowned politician in Ghana, doctors, nurses, soldiers and others who are serving the country in various capacities. Not to even forget the College of Education that has produced several hundreds of thousands of teachers serving all over the country.
As a medical student, maybe I can do more than just raise awareness about this canker. I will stop here and get to work on protecting the health of the town and its future in ways that I can. I hope you join me in my quest whoever my reader may be.