Impact of Political Instability from Burkina Faso and Mali on Health Services in Upper West Region

Dr. Damien Punguyire, the Upper West Regional Director of Health Services, has raised concerns over the adverse effects of political instability in Burkina Faso and Mali on the health sector in the region. During the opening of the 2023 annual regional health sector performance review meeting of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in Wa, he highlighted various challenges exacerbated by this situation.

Dr. Punguyire noted that the influx of immigrants, particularly in the Sissala East and Sissala West Districts, has strained health services. With approximately 8,507 immigrants, including 1,036 children under five years, seeking temporary settlement, the demand for healthcare, including vaccination, sanitation, and medical attention, has surged, stretching resources thin.

Addressing this pressing issue, Dr. Punguyire emphasized the urgent need to expand health infrastructure, enhance logistics supply, and improve transportation systems, especially in border districts, to bolster the region’s resilience against this ongoing threat.

He appealed to Municipal and District Chief Executives to prioritize the health sector in the implementation of the Gulf of Guinea Northern Ghana Social Cohesion (SOCO) project, recognizing the pivotal role it plays in fostering community well-being.

Furthermore, Dr. Punguyire highlighted the challenge of high staff turnover, with 134 departures compared to only 35 new staff postings within the year. He emphasized the importance of retaining medical professionals and called for expedited efforts to convert the Upper West Regional Hospital into a specialist training center, enabling doctors to specialize while serving the region.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Punguyire acknowledged strides made in improving health service delivery, including the provision of tricycle ambulances and essential medical equipment like ultrasound machines and oxygen concentrators. Looking ahead to 2024, he pledged to continue strengthening public health and clinical care interventions and enhancing monitoring and supervision in line with GHS’s mandate.

The meeting also received commendation from Mr. Peter Maala, representing the Regional Minister, for the impressive performance of the health sector in 2023. He highlighted the integration of health projects under the SOCO initiative and the establishment of a refugee reception center by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the Sissala West District to streamline support services for displaced persons.

The Western Regional Health Directorate’s peer-reviewed assessment awarded the Upper West Region with a Regional Holistic Assessment score of 3.8, signaling an improvement from the previous year. The evaluation, conducted under the theme “Embracing the Networks of Practice Approach to improve health outcomes in the Upper West Region,” underscores the collective commitment to addressing challenges and enhancing healthcare delivery in the region.

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