Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Field Work & Football

This past week, Luke and I began our first district analysis. We are planning on analyzing the current capacities of the District Water and Sanitation Team(DWST), and the current methodologies used by the DWST and other people at the district level, such as the District Chief Executive, the District Coordinating Director and the District Planning Officer. From these evaluations, we will determine in which areas it would be beneficial to build capacity and what type of program would be most effective. So, we left Tamale to spend four days in the capital of a nearby district.

On the first day, we spoke with the DWST about the challenges they face, how they collect information about the water sources in their district, and what (if any) database system they use to store and organize this data. After a long and informative conversation with the extremely knowledgeable team leader, two of the DWSTs took us to the District Assembly(DA) guest house. It felt like a five star resort, with a flushing toilet and a shower!

The following day we accompanied two of the DWSTs out to the field to monitor boreholes, household latrines and a small town water system. Sitting on the back of the motorbike with the sunshine warming my skin and the fresh breeze keeping me cool, I was mesmerized by the practically untouched natural beauty of the rolling hills lush with deep green vegetation.

Once we reached the intended small community, we observed as the DWSTs went about a typical monitoring visit. First, they greeted the village chief and explained why we were here. At the borehole, the DWSTs inspected the cleanliness of the concrete pad surrounding the borehole and the tightness of the bolts of the pump. They gave the pump a try to check the flow of the water. We took a tour of one household to monitor hygiene practices – if the drinking water was covered and kept separate from the water for domestic use.

Helen and me with a newly installed borehole hand pump.

Rufia and me inspecting the construction of a household latrine.

Luke “Space Ranger” Brown – to avoid being “grossly negligent” we EWBers wear snazzy head protection when riding motorbikes.

That night neither Luke nor I was hungry so we didn’t venture out until later to find a bite to eat. The guest house was on the main road, but at the edge of town so we had to walk a ways to find some street vendors. There were no street lights (or if there were they weren’t on), so we walked in the dark accompanied by lively music echoing through the darkness. It can be near impossible to see Ghanaians in the dark and so occasionally when a truck would pass, the lights would eerily illuminate dark figures moving slowly in the night. As creepy as that seemed, I can’t imagine how spine-tingling it would be to see two ghostly figures approaching, seemingly glowing in the shadows!

On the third morning, I woke up not feeling so well. My body was achy, which I thought might have been from the bed even though it was better than the one I usually sleep on (mattresses in Ghana are usually pieces of foam). The aches intensified, I had a crushing headache and my stomach was upset…both ways. I stayed in bed the whole day, only venturing out when one of the DWSTs took me to the local hospital to get checked out. The diagnosis was malaria and I started popping the treatment pills that night.

An interesting note about the strong hierarchical influence in Ghana (or I guess it could show the high prevalence of malaria here): I was really not feeling too hot during our journey to and from the hospital. The DWST even told me I looked “rundown” (initially I thought he was talking about the hospital…oops!). But on our way back to the guest house, we stopped twice to have lengthy conversations with two of the higher ups at the District Assembly not only to update them on my condition but also to chat about what they were doing and where they were going. Greeting people is very important here and paying respect to superiors is even more so.

Without a lab test to verify the diagnosis, I’ll never be entirely sure if it was malaria. But malaria is a definite reality here. In Africa, over 2.5 million people die each year because of it. Most of these are children. The heartbreaking part is that malaria is completely treatable. Treatment to cure the disease costs about $5. Seriously. Preventative measures such as sleeping under a mosquito net can also drastically reduce the deaths due to malaria. Bed nets are also ridiculously inexpensive (in our terms). As I was already taking anti-malarial medication, my case was probably a reduced version of what malaria can be. I cannot imagine enduring that discomfort with no hope of affording those twelve little pills and knowing you may not survive.

During the last two days of our visit, Luke spoke with many other stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector at the district level. Our first district analysis was extremely enlightening about issues at the district level that we, working out of the regional office, were not aware of. We also were able to test out our methods of analysis, which try to ensure we are seeing the whole, true picture.

When we returned to Tamale, Ghana’s third match of the World Cup was almost underway. I missed the first game, against Italy, when I was in Manga. Watching the second game, against the Czech Republic, on the streets of Tamale was quite an experience! After each goal, people jumped up, waved flags, picked up chairs and ran around screaming! At the end of the game spontaneous parades were formed, people were dancing in the street, every car was honking its horn (more than usual!) and flags were being flown from motorbikes racing (and swerving dangerously) down the main street!! A constant cheer was audible from across the city. The third game, against the US, I followed from the two cheers and groan that I heard from my bed as the effects of malaria slowly wore off.

So yesterday was the start of the next round for the Black Stars. Here is a before picture of Luke and me decked out in our Ghanaian flags, all ready to cheer on our newly adopted favourite for our newly adopted favourite football team:

And here is an after picture:

Next time, Ghana, next time!


Anonymous Leamington Takaki's said...

I can only imagine how your Mom and Dad felt when they heard you had malaria. Glad to know it's completely treatable. We're enjoying your weekly newsletters.
Aunt Donna & Uncle Fred

1:20 a.m.  
Anonymous Vega said...

Hey Sarah,
Yikes! I'm so sorry to hear about the malaria, but glad that you took care of it so quickly! Please keep that monitored for us. It must've been so much fun to celebrate with Ghana during the Cup games! Keep those updates coming, take care!

4:33 p.m.  
Anonymous Sarah Summer said...

Malaria is a very difficult sickness; it is cool that you were able to handle it.

1:47 p.m.  
Blogger NickoGrosso said...

It was interesting hearing about your trip. Thanks for the post. Sarah Summer

2:33 p.m.  
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