Very few people across the world expected to begin the year 2020 locked up in their homes, and faced with restrictions on some of their social freedoms. While many heard the news about the soaring coronavirus infections in China in December 2019 and the early months of 2020, there was little expectation that the disease, named COVID-19 will turn out to be a pandemic.
Even prior to the time when the World Health Organization (WHO) had recognised more than 11 million confirmed cases and over 500,000 deaths in 216 countries as at July 6, lockdowns and restrictions on social activities, especially movements across borders had become a common global feature. Ghana was not an exception. Ghana’s confirmed case count reported by the Ghana Health Service as of July 6, 2020, shows over 20,000 infections, more than 14,000 recovered and 122 deaths.
As part of the measures to fight the spread of the COVID-19 disease, people all over the world have been strongly advised by the WHO and their Governments to observe certain protocols, including social distancing, washing their hands or cleaning them with alcohol-based sanitizers, and wearing face and nose masks.
Additionally, the protocols advise on covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, self-isolating if one develops symptoms or is asymptomatic, while persons who contract the disease are quarantined and given emergency care.
While the global search for a vaccine to conquer coronavirus lingers, many discussions fail to include a critical factor which enables most of the measures deployed to combat the disease to be effective. The availability of adequate, quality and reliable electric power is this critical factor. It is required to ensure that ‘lockdown’ directives are successful and to give people infected with the virus, a better chance to go through prescribed treatments and achieve recovery.
It is Power that ensures that potable water flows through taps, to use for the regular hand-washing exercises needed to fight the disease. Health facilities, emergency care centres, factories that produce sanitizers and PPEs, etc, need sustainable electricity supply, while electricity in homes makes people comfortable enough to stay at home and curtail non-critical outdoor activities.
Like oxygen, it is easy to forget the worth of electricity when it is available. The unavailability of quality and sustainable electricity breeds poverty, poses security threats and stunts economic growth. Indeed, global access to electricity is envisioned as critical for the World’s sustainable development and is underscored in SDG 7, among the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is for these reasons that the Ghana Power Compact, signed between the Governments of Ghana and the United States, through its Agency the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), is providing Ghana with funding of US$308 million for investments in her electricity distribution system, and thereby make it reliable and available for use, not only to propel economic growth but also to equip and make Ghana ready to meet challenges like those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other natural disasters. The five-year Compact Program, which became operational in September 2016, was developed at a time when Ghana suffered an unprecedented power availability crisis.
Funds under the Compact Program are being disbursed across four key Projects to build infrastructure that will improve the quality and reliability of electricity supplied to homes, factories, businesses, markets, economic enclaves, institutions and health facilities among others.
The major infrastructural interventions include the construction of two large Bulk Supply Points (BSP) at Kasoa and Pokuase, to forestall overloads at the distribution service points in ECG’s Southern Region and to meet the high projections for electricity demand in future. On completion, communities and towns in and around Kasoa and Pokuase will experience significant improvements in the adequacy, quality and reliability of supply, as well as reductions in power outages.
The construction of two vital Primary Substations at Kanda and in the University of Ghana, Legon, all close to three critical health facilities – the 37 Military Hospital, the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, the new University of Ghana Teaching Hospital and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, a major testing Centre for COVID-19, will be helpful in meeting the power supply needs of these facilities.
These are the frontline health facilities supporting the fight against this deadly pandemic as inputs into the resources needed in the effective management of Ghana’ health delivery infrastructure. These prioritized Projects also highlight the Compact’s objective of improving the quality of life in all the beneficiary communities and ensuring that power is always available at the beneficiary Institutions to allow all to have access to quality health care at all times.
“The Compact’s flagship Projects, now under construction, will fill an infrastructure gap with assets that will contribute to the resolution of the perennial power supply challenges experienced by the beneficiary health facilities, enabling these critical facilitates to fulfil their full obligations as life-saving facilities”, said Martin Eson-Benjamin, Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), the Accountable Entity for the implementation of the Power Compact Program.
Besides, the provision of some vital power supply assets, the Power Compact’s Race to Retrofit Program, is also helping some public Institutions to reduce their energy costs by an estimated 30 per cent. The intervention is replacing high energy-consuming appliances such as refrigerators, air-conditioners, fans and lighting systems in these Institutions with energy-efficient types, at an estimated cost of US$3.0 million.
The Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, the Adabraka Polyclinic and the Ministry of Health are the primary beneficiaries of the Race to Retrofit Activities, together with three others, namely; the Ministry of Education, the Department of Urban Roads, the University of Ghana and the Ghana Education Service’s Head Office Building.
Ms Esther Tetteh, Administrator for the Child Health Department at Korle-Bu, lauds the Compact’s intervention and confirms that most of their electrical appliances were obsolete, consequently the cost of maintaining them was high. The retrofitting initiative by MiDA would therefore significantly reduce the Department’s maintenance costs and their energy consumption.
The intervention carried out in four blocks of Korle Bu, the nation’s premier hospital, will also reduce the Hospital’s electricity consumption, estimated at 2.8 million kilowatt/hour per year, by 40 per cent. Collectively, the three Health Institutions could save over GHS 2million of their annual energy costs.
As Ghana makes progress in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of electricity in providing access to quality health care for Ghanaians cannot be overlooked. Through the Ghana Power Compact Program, it is expected that the investments now being made into the country’s power distribution infrastructure, shall result in a resilient and brighter Ghana.