Joint Canadian and European Parliamentary study tour to Ghana, 21-28 July 2007
1st August 2007
European and Canadian Parliamentarians have recently returned from a week-long study tour to Ghana, co-organised by the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, Action Canada for Population and Development and the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health. The European Parliamentary delegation was composed of two German Christian Democrats, one German Socialist, a Swedish Liberal, a Portuguese conservative and a Cypriot MP from the Democratic Rally party. Canadian representatives included a Conservative Senator and a Liberal MP.
At the beginning of the week participants were introduced to the successes and challenges related to sexual and reproductive health in Ghana through a multi-stakeholder meeting, including representatives from the Ghanaian Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, UNFPA, the National Population Council and the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and Professor Sai, Presidential Advisor on Population, Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS.
The delegation visited various local initiatives dealing with sexual and reproductive health issues, such as the Centre for Trokosi girls, who are victims of an illegal sexual and economic slavery practice in parts of Ghana. The Centre trains the girls in new skills such as baking, dressmaking and hairdressing and counsels the community to help reintegrate these girls back into society. The delegation was also very impressed by a visit to the Queen Mothers, who are the wives of the village chiefs and who engage in community work, focusing on taking care of vulnerable children and AIDS orphans. The Queen Mothers are vital partners in local community based development initiatives. Participants attended a Youth Rally at the Young and Wise Youth Centre established by the host organisation for the study tour, the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana, and were able to learn about the peer educator training and condom promotion activities that take place for young people.
The delegation visited two rural hospitals, Atua Government hospital and St. Martins hospital, a private and missionary hospital founded in 1946 and one urban hospital -the LA General hospital in Accra- to find out about health service provision especially in relation to HIV/AIDS and maternal health care. All of the hospitals were providing HIV testing, counseling and treatment services, but emphasized the challenge of lack of human and financial resources, which is hindering development of the national health sector, especially in rural areas.
Meetings were held with officials in the Ministry of Health, the spokesperson of Parliament, the Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, as well as the delegation of the European Commission in Accra and the UNFPA in Ghana, who provided an overview of their activities within the country. The Ministry of Health is concerned about the lack of financial and human resources in the medical sector in Ghana, partly due to the brain drain phenomenon.
Parliamentarians were impressed by the strategic planning that is taking place in the health care sector in Ghana in order to deal with HIV/AIDS, malaria etc, yet also recognized the financial and human resources challenge that Ghana is facing and the need to strengthen Parliamentary budgetary scrutiny given the new trend of directing aid through general budget support in recipient countries. The Parliamentarians consequently committed to reporting back on these challenges to their own Foreign Ministries and Development Ministers in order to help try and shape future aid policies.
* * *
August 1 2007, European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF)