Container disinfection scientifically grounded; cost arrangement favours importers – GHS

The Ghana Health Service, GHS, has maintained that the container disinfection program is to ensure public health of Ghanaians in accordance with the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the Public Health Act, 851.

The Service says recent outbreaks and pandemics across nations and the likelihood of containers and cargoes getting contaminated is at an all-time high make it imperative to ensure that people living in Ghana are adequately protected.

Director of Public Health at the GHS, Dr Badu Sarkodie, concedes the lack of adequate information for stakeholders to make informed decisions has been a challenge resulting in the suspension of the disinfection program.

“The science behind it is established, the rest is the modalities to ensure its acceptability and relevance.”

He however remains hopeful that notwithstanding the suspension of the programme, “government will come out with clear directions for the way forward.”

Ghana signed unto the IHR which recommends routine and emergency measures at specially designated points of entry, including decontamination procedures at international container terminals, ports airports and ground crossings as part of the strategic and integrated approach to managing the relevant risks to human, animal, plant life and health.

Health authorities, this year, moved to implement the IHR, which provisions also find expression in the Ghana’s Public Health Act, with the selection of LCB Worldwide Ghana as implementers and GHS as technical partners.

A section of the stakeholders, including the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) have rejected the move alluding to the cost implications on their businesses and describing it as “unnecessary”. Government has subsequently directed the indefinite suspension of the “fumigation levy.”

But the Director of Public Health is warning that inactivity as far as this initiative is concerned will cost much more than the investment citing a United Nations Development Group’s projected loss of US$3.6 billion per year between 2014 and 2017 resulting from decrease in trade, closure of borders, flight cancellation and reduced Foreign Direct Investment and tourism due to activities fuelled by the stigma.

“If you think prevention is expensive, try not doing anything,” he challenged.

He dispelled the notion that consignments may be damaged when disinfectants get into contact with them explaining, the substance are organic chemicals and therefore not toxic nor harmful to humans.

Meanwhile officials of LCB Worldwide Ghana, remain positive consultations with stakeholders would help reach an agreement that would be beneficial to all.

Local Partner, Kareem Abu, said Shipping lines are more than ready to take on the cost of disinfection, but that plan would eventually be surcharged importer at a higher margin, hence the current arrangement to ensure cost in locally collected.

“I hear GUTA is pushing for that, it is not something we will object to if this is what will resolve the issue.”

By Godfred Tawiah Gogo