Preparing for Epidemic Outbreaks: Public Health Emergency Fund in Ghana crucial

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Preparing for Epidemic Outbreaks: Public Health Emergency Fund in Ghana crucial.  As the saying goes; “health is wealth”, governments around the world have obligations to protect their citizens from health complications, emergencies and pandemics that have the potential to take the wealth from them (the citizens).

This calls for governments to put in place efficient systems and structures that will prepare them to respond to or counter the negative effects of outbreak of deadly diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emergency Funding

A key component of epidemics preparedness is the financing of programmes and initiatives geared towards the swift response to public health emergencies.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in Ghana exposed how stakeholders have neglected instituting interventions to respond to such viruses and diseases.

It is imperative for the government to seek broad consultation from all relevant stakeholders to develop strategic measures on how to set up epidemics preparedness financing system to respond to future outbreaks.

One of the measures the government can take is to take inspiration from the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) and introduce a Public Health Emergency Fund (PHEF) to mobilise contingency resources towards future public health emergencies.

This Fund, when established, will rope in more revenue locally thereby boosting external partners’ confidence in supporting the nation in the event of pandemics. This is in fulfilment of the saying that: “Heaven helps those, who help themselves.”


Beyond the establishment, there is the need for government to enact legislation to regulate how the Fund should be used to repose confidence in both local and international partners, which will help generate more revenue for the Fund.

Pandemics are a natural phenomenon; they are the result of new pathogen emerging and spreading around the world and have occurred at frequent and unpredictable intervals throughout human history.

New and emerging pandemics can affect humans anywhere and at any time, with diseases that can spread from animals to humans, such as COVID-19, HIV, Ebola, and influenza, among others.

The acceleration of global mobility for example, due to conflict or instability, population growth, urbanisation and poor sanitation, the ecological implications of climate change, and changes in food and agricultural systems including intensification, biodiversity loss, trade in wildlife and livestock all contribute to the risk of emergence of infectious diseases, and of antimicrobial resistance.

The establishment of a Public Health Emergency Fund in Ghana can be used to put in place robust infrastructure and systems to respond effectively to future epidemics.

Statistics on disease outbreaks in Ghana

Ghana has experienced in managing cases of high infectious diseases, and in recent years, has managed confirmed cases of COVID-19, Lassa fever, and monkeypox, among others. These are infectious diseases, with few or no treatment options with high fatality rates, and the ability to spread rapidly.

Statistics from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) shows that between 2020 and 2023, the country recorded eight different disease outbreaks.

They are: COVID-19, Lassa Fever, Monkeypox, Marbug virus, Yellow Fever, Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM), Polio and Measles. All these diseases led to some deaths and other health complications.

Public health emergency preparedness and response in Ghana


Dr Hilarius Asiwome Kosi Abiwu, the Deputy Director of Public Health at Northern Regional Health Directorate, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview that the Ministry of Health and the GHS have developed sufficient systems and capabilities for those at the national, regional, districts, sub-districts, and community levels to quickly identify and respond to public health emergencies.

He said the authorities had instituted event-based and indicator-based surveillance systems to determine and respond to possible public health emergencies.

He said all the structures were in place except the resources to effectively carry out these mandate.

Challenges in responding to public health emergencies


During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resilience of Ghana’s healthcare system was highly tested, and exposed as to how less prepared it was to respond to the virus.

Some facilities were overwhelmed by the number of cases recorded to the extent of making use of temporary structures such as insulation and treatment centres.

Dr Abiwu observed that the major challenge in responding to public health emergencies in Ghana has to do with source of finance.

He said currently, there was no standby fund dedicated to public health emergencies, which he described as a worrying phenomenon.

Why emergency fund?

The relevance of establishing a public health emergency fund to build a robust responsive structure cannot be understated.

A public health emergency fund will provide Ghana with the resources necessary to respond promptly and effectively to disease outbreaks without waiting for support from international organisations.

A well-funded and resourced public health system will enable Ghana to prevent epidemic outbreaks through vaccination and community health sensitisation programmes

Dr Abiwu said, “Any efforts to setup a fund with a system that makes it easy to access it when there are concerned public health threats will be crucial.”

Revenue mobilisation channel for the fund

Mr Nathaniel Appeadu, a Finance Expert from Takoradi in the Western Region, suggested that authorities must take inspiration from how the Ghana Education Trust Fund was established and institute same ideas to set up the Public Health Emergency Fund.

He said there could be a levy introduced in the form of taxation, where a percentage would be paid at the ports and harbours to rope in a substantial amount of money for the fund.

“Just as they were able to introduce the Electronic Transaction Levy (E-Levy) out of nowhere, they can also pass through the necessary processes and introduce the public health emergency levy to establish the fund,” he added.

The way forward

New and emerging pandemic diseases can affect humans anywhere and at any time. So, there is the need for the country to be adequately prepared now for the future.

The major challenge in responding to public health emergencies in Ghana has had to do with source of financing mechanisms.

Madam Vivian Eshun, a Community Nurse, in Takoradi, said the relevance of establishing a public health emergency fund to build a robust responsive structure could not be understated.

Madam Bassana, a Midwifery Officer at Tamale West Hospital, said public safety should be the country’s top priority, as such, the establishment of the fund will support government and stakeholders to provide the best care possible for people, who became ill, and support hospitals to maintain essential services to help minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy in case of pandemics.

It is hoped that the government will take considerable steps to establish a public health emergency fund to mobilise enough resources to respond to future public health emergencies.

Source: GNA


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