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The Special Advisor to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and head of the SDGs Advisory Unit under the Office of the President, Dr. Eugene Owusu, has lamented the increasing use of Shisha among Ghanaians especially the youth. He blamed it on the unregulated space which some business people capitalized on to make money.
“It is becoming more fashionable and accessible because the space was not regulated and some business people took advantage of it. The only way to curtail this is by working hard to ensure that the unregulated space is closed,” he stated.
He said civil society must continue to mount pressure on State actors and demand action to fill that gap in the interest of the ordinary Ghanaian citizen who has been exploited innocently. He said “State actors must wake up; and the laws must work”.
He commended highly the work of the members of the Ghana Non-Communicable Disease Alliance (Ghana NCD Alliance-GhNCDA) in their advocacy work on behalf of people living with NCDs (PLWNCDs) and disabilities, challenging the alliance to lift its advocacy game since most governments turn to react more quickly to public opinion.
Dr Owusu made these remarks on Tuesday when the leadership of the GhNCDA called on him in his office in Accra to discuss with him some critical issues on NCDs and the need for governmental intervention.
The meeting is part of strategic moves to whip up the government’s interest in the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (UN HLM) and establish President Akufo-Addo’s commitment to attend in person.
The UN HLM is an opportunity for world leaders to examine NCDs within the context of the SDGs, and share best practices to drive progress towards the global NCD targets and attainment of the SDGs, among others.
This year’s UN HLM has been scheduled for September in Geneva with over 90 Heads of States and senior government representatives attending. It is expected to mainly discuss NCDs which has today been identified as a major killer around the world.
There are steps in place to control NCDs in Ghana but it has become necessary for the government to make it a priority on its agenda so as to reduce the NCDs burden in the country and to also raise the awareness on it for all stakeholders including political leadership.
The National Coordinator of the GhNCDA, Labram Musah, who led the delegation to Dr Owusu’s office noted among others that the Alliance exist to complement efforts by the government in areas of policy design, reviews, awareness creation, monitoring, information sharing and research as a constant reminder to the government’s commitment on NCDs.
He said the government alone cannot address all the challenges in the health sector, hence the need for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to actively get involved.
According to him there is currently an ongoing evaluation which will inform future strategies and policy on cancer and NCDs following the inability of Ghana to meet its previous targets on NCDs due to insufficient funds inflow.
“We have an NCD office within the Ghana Health Service but owing to insufficient funds, it is unable to play its role properly. The National policy on cancer 2014 – 2017 and the National Policy and National Strategy in the implementation of Chronic Non Communicable Diseases 2014-2017 have all elapsed,” he stated.
He said though there are new attempts to develop a new policy and strategy on Cancer and NCDs in Ghana, issues of funds has stalled the process again.
“Nations are now embracing the concept of forming Alliances to help tackle the NCDs menace which affect people in every country, the rich and poor, old and young, in cities and in villages, the privileged and the vulnerable. At any point in our lives, we are likely to suffer an NCD and if the current trend is to continue then we are all at great risk,” Musah stated.
He said some of the SDGs cannot be attained in the absence of clear strategies to tackle them.
“The SDGs cannot be complete if there are no strategies or pragmatic measures in place to curtail the menace of NCDs. There is a need for the government to as a matter of urgency focus attention on the major NCDs risk factors including tobacco and alcohol, physical activity and unhealthy diets,” he stated.
Musah called on President Akufo-Addo to use his position as one of the chair of eminent advocates on SDGs to support the implementation of some of the interventions to demonstrate his commitment to reducing NCDs in Ghana and in the world.
He mentioned the recent influx of shisha on the Ghanaian market – a major concern for the Alliance. He called for measures to out rightly ban Shisha use in Ghana as has been done in some other countries. He said currently there is a petition before the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) proposing a ban on shisha in Ghana.
Other issues discussed at the meeting relates to tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC), alcohol abuse and the need for the enforcement of the alcohol policy, stroke, aging, people living with NCDs and disabilities.
Dr. Owusu promised to discuss the issues with the President, expressing further hope that the President will honour the invitation to personally attend this year’s UN HLM on NCDs.
He also made a personal pledge to be a champion on NCDs in Ghana to advance the cause.
Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson || ghananewsonline.com.gh