11% of Ghana’s Children Under 5 Die – More Can Live if Counterfeit Drugs are Reduced

Ghanaian religious leaders committed to decreasing child mortality rates decried counterfeit drug purveyors at the 8th Annual National Catholic Health Services Conference (NCHS).

The 8th NCHS Annual Conference was held at the Catholic Guest House, Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana from October 26 to 29, 2010. The theme was “Monitoring for Continuous Improvement: Using Whole System Measures”. The NCHS annual conference was instituted to create a forum for Catholic Church health institutions to share common and peculiar concerns and experiences.

The National Catholic Health Service (NCHS) is partnered with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to run Project Fives Alive! to reduce morbidity and mortality in children less than five years old in Ghana. Funding for the Project comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ghana’s children suffer 110 deaths for each 1000 children under five years of age, or 11%. One of the most common sources of mortality is malaria. Anti-malarial drugs are among the most common counterfeited in Africa and Southeast Asia where malaria is pervasive.

The Most Reverend Joseph Afrifa-Agyekum, Bishop for Koforidua Diocese and Espiscopal Chairman for Catholic Health Services argued that purveyors of dangerous counterfeit drugs take advantage of unsuspecting people who buy their fake medicines. He said drug counterfeiters take advantage of countries where regulations and law enforcement on drug safety are limited to exploit them and indicated that developing countries where regulatory and enforcement agencies are poorly underfunded and understaffed are a haven for the distribution of fake drugs, according to Ghana News Agency.

He then went on to ask the government of Ghana to take action through the Food and Drugs Board, the Ministry of Health, regulatory bodies and security agencies against the threat of counterfeit medications, stressing that the Catholic Church was committed to working alongside the government.

He stated that the Catholic Church was committed to working with the government to achieve the country’s target for the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Of the UNDP’s eight development goals for Ghana, the most dire are the reduction in child mortality, including the death rates associated with malaria, and improvement of maternal health.

According to the source, Upper East Regional Minister Mark Woyongo praised Afrifa-Agyekum and the Catholic Church for their involvement in and aid for the fight against counterfeit drugs.