After an 11 hour flight from Dulles, we were on the ground in Accra and anxious to join our 13 other colleagues and students who have been in Western Ghana since July 29, providing direct care services to the community in the “twin cities” of Sekondi and Takoradi. It’s an interprofessional group of physical therapists, dental hygienists, physician assistants, nurses, physicians, and public health professionals.
After quickly moving through Customs/Immigration, where we provided electronic scans of our both of hands, we grabbed our luggage in baggage claim and were greeted by Frank, the health mission’s community worker. Frank is a longtime partner in Ghana who has assisted us during the health mission for many years; he stayed by our side for the next seven hours, safely navigating our way to our final destination in Sekondi via taxi, bus and car. Traffic in the capital city of Accra is tense for those of us unaccustomed to the narrow and congested streets, and we were relieved to have his calm and cheerful company.
Since our arrival in late July, the clinic has treated close to 300 patients. Many of the children, parents and elderly who visit the clinic have no health insurance and little access to medical care. Many also turn to the indigenous healing practices. Patients start waiting in line as early as 4:30 a.m. Frank assigns them a ticket when he arrives and they patiently wait their turn.
Access to safe drinking water is a challenge in this region, and many of the illnesses such as malaria and intestinal parasites reflect that. High blood pressure, children with malnutrition, and various injuries are also common.
The children at the clinic are playful, friendly and inquisitive. They are delighted to watch a medical glove magically transformed into a five-fingered balloon, and they giggle when they see a photo of themselves played back on a digital camera. During the course of the day I notice how little crying I hear from the little ones, even when their fingers are pricked for testing.
UNE Director of Communications