Posted by: devonhamilton | August 9, 2010

Two Months!

Only two more months until I arrive in Ghana. I am very excited but am also getting a little nervous. I have officially sent in my registration forms and my first deposit towards my program cost, and I have an appointment with my travel doctor in a couple of weeks!

I have been trying to read about Ghana as much as possible. I usually read the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail online when I wake up in the morning, and I’m trying to get into the habit of reading some Ghanaian newspapers too!

I came across a couple of interesting articles today. The first one, “Worldreader Brings Kindle to Africa“, talks about improving low literacy rates in Ghana through technology. Not only is it easier to download books on the Kindle (or a similar device) rather than shipping them in, it is also cheaper. The other point is that people learning to read will be more engaged if they are able to choose their own reading material to suit their own interest, versus choosing from a perhaps limited selection of print books. I thought this was interesting because it sounds similar to the communications “leap” made in many countries in Africa by skipping the landline “step” and going straight to cellphones. It was said to us at some point this year at school that the availability of cellphones in these regions is credited with an improvement in maternal health as women are able to call and ask questions or request a doctor when needed, rather than having to travel themselves.

The other article that caught my attention today was “The Civility of Hand Washing.” One of my project proposals this year was based solely on water and sanitation with a large focus on public education campaigns on handwashing and hygiene.

The books I have been reading about Ghana advise travelers to be cautious about hygiene and handwashing practices there, going so far as to say that I should avoid eating anything raw while I am there, or anything that cannot be peeled or is not cooked, and to not purchase anything from street vendors. I am also supposed to be particularly dilligent about my own handwashing practices.

This article actually talks about Canada and the massive handwashing campaign that has happened here in the past few years. It even mentions how we have hand sanitizer stations available in all public places.

In a simple public health promotion, Public Health Agency of Canada advises Canadians to wash their hands “several times a day with soap and warm water, especially: before meals; before feeding children, including breastfeeding; before and after preparing food; after using the toilet; after changing diapers or helping a child use the toilet; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after playing with shared toys; before and after visiting with people who are sick; and after handling animals or their waste.” It may sound basic but that’s where the power of the message lies.

The author suggests that Ghana needs to take a similar approach to public health and sanitation by promoting it in the school and through media. I think the comparison with Canada is important because so often when we are talking about designing hygiene and handwashing awareness programs there is a worry of “talking down” to the population about how they “should” be doing things. However, when we look at the initiatives brought forward by the Canadian Public Health agency, I don’t think any Canadians felt that they were being talked down to. After reading about the entire campaign I realize that these advertisements were widely spread, and we received some paper literature on flu prevention during the school year. I think the Canadian model is a good one to follow: radio and television advertisements combined with printed information posted in washrooms, newspapers, and subways.

I have set up a couple of meetings with friends who have been to Ghana, so in a couple of weeks I should have more insight into the water & sanitation, hygiene, and handwashing issues!

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