While the attention of the nation is fixed on fighting COVID-19, the people of the Upper West region appear to be dealing with a more serious threat. 214 people have so far been infected with Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) with 33 deaths. This came to light during a presentation by the Upper West regional director of health last week.
CSM is an acute inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and the spinal cord. This condition is classified as a medical emergency. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) about 10 -15 % of patients diagnosed with CSM die.
MP for Wa Central, Dr Rashid Pelpuo, has thus penned an open letter to President Nana Akufo-Addo lamenting what he calls “loud silence and lack of expeditious action over the devastating Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) infection in the Upper West Region.”
The former Sports Minister is calling for similar attention being given the fight against COVID-19 to be accorded the CSM outbreak as he argues that more lives have been lost to the CSM than the dreaded COVID-19.
“It remains a fact that 5 lives have been lost from COVID-19 and though these are precious lives, and one life is too many to be lost, this number is slight compared to the 33 deaths caused by CSM in the last few weeks. These are Ghanaians and loved ones of people of the Upper West region.”
He also alleges that drugs for the treatment of the condition are being managed for political gain. Though Dr Rashid Pelpuo stopped short of mentioning names, he claims “government rather than supplying the Regional Central Medical store with the drugs to be administered to all, allegedly decided to hand them over to that individual to present them as that person’s own effort at helping the outbreak.
“Not only is this alleged act dishonest, it is also cheap and inhumane as it portrays elements in your government as heartless people who will stop at nothing, including using disease and death, to reap political gains,” Dr Rashid Pelpuo said.
Below is Dr Rashid Pelpuo’s open letter to President Akufo-Addo
Dear Your Excellency,
I am writing to you today because of the loud silence and lack of expeditious action over the devastating Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) infection in the Upper West Region. I had reason to draw attention of the Government on the floor of Parliament over the weekend about the effect of the disease in the region. However, there appears to be a lack of urgency with which the Ministry of Health is tackling the problem.
Mr President, as of last Friday, April 3, 2020, 214 cases of the disease were reported with 33 deaths.
We are admittedly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation and the world are still struggling to see the way clear. However, the fact of the present pandemic should not mean that other important health needs should be relegated to the background.
It remains a fact that 5 people have died from COVID-19 and though these are precious lives, and one life is too many to be lost, this number is slight compared to the 33 deaths caused by CSM in the last few weeks. These are Ghanaians and loved ones of people of the Upper West region.
CSM has been with us for a long time and has become perennial especially in the dry season when temperatures are high. Though its fatality rate is higher than COVID-19, its treatment is known.
Despite the devastating nature of CSM and the high mortality rates recorded so far in the region, it has been severely under reported and has therefore received very little attention. Indeed, it was during a presentation by the Regional Director of health on COVID-19 in the region that the CSM figures were mentioned in passing. It was a local radio station, Home Radio that picked the information and publicized it, calling attention to it.
Mr President, the essence of this open letter to you is three-fold;
Firstly, it is to draw your attention to the CSM scourge which has so far killed more people in the last few weeks than COVID-19, despite the fact that it is a known disease with a known treatment.
Mr President, it is also to prod you to cause the release of resources to subdue the occurrence of the disease before it spreads more riotously and reaches catastrophic levels. To think that 214 infections and 33 deaths have been recorded and there appears to be no notable public health intervention on the disease in the last couple of weeks is not only mind-boggling but leaves room to worry whether lives in the region are not important to you, sir. One would expect that by now a dual campaign of COVID-19 and CSM awareness would have been waged in the region to show people what to do should they see or experience symptoms and how they can keep safe. There appears to be no urgency at the moment to deal with the CSM outbreak, as all efforts are devoted to COVID-19.
Finally, and most disturbing are reports that drugs needed to subdue the outbreak of the Cerebrospinal Meningitis which are in short supply, were donated by an individual. Mr President, these are not drugs ordinarily available on the market and can only be procured and supplied by government.
What this means is that government rather than supplying the Regional Central Medical store with the drugs to be administered to all, allegedly decided to hand them over to that individual to present them as that person’s own effort at helping the outbreak. Not only is this alleged act dishonest, it is also cheap and inhumane as it portrays elements in your government as heartless people who will stop at nothing, including using disease and death, to reap political gains. This flies in the face of our culture and is condemnable.
In conclusion, the people of the Upper West region are desirous of a conscious and expeditious action by government in a similar manner we are fighting the COVID 19 disease, for the end objective is to save lives whether from COVID-19 or CSM especially as the numbers from later are more pressing. This lack of urgency and disregard for the lives of people in the Upper West region cannot be tolerated.
Mr President, as you have mentioned before, these are not normal times, therefore we need to close our ranks and work together as citizens with you providing impartial leadership. The people of the Upper West region are looking up to that leadership that dispenses justice and equality in addressing our present twin plagues of CSM and COVID-19.
I thank you for your attention
Hon Dr Rashid Pelpuo,
MP, Wa Central,
Upper West Region.
April 6, 2020