Ghana is exposed to multiple weather-related and health-related hazards, particularly floods across the country, including Accra, and droughts in the Northern Savannah belt. Epidemics, pest infestations and wildfires occur across the country. There are risks of landslides, urban hazards, and coastal erosion due to storm surges. Disasters have a severe impact on affected communities. For example, in 2007 floods affected 300,000 people and cost US$25 million in emergency response and over US$ 130 million in direct damage to infrastructure, livelihoods and food security. In 2013 over 30,000 people were affected by flooding.
Epidemics: The effects of pandemics and major epidemics (including Avian and Pandemic Influenzas, Cholera and Ebola) have been devastating globally, and in particular in West Africa. Initiatives and interventions undertaken in Ghana in response to these threats include the recent National Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Preparedness Plan initiated by the Government in 2014, which was supported by the United Nation EVD Joint Programme.
Ghana had been identified as a high-risk country during the worst EVD outbreak in history but did not record a single EVD case. Considerable progress was made in surveillance and preparedness which not only contributed to this successful outcome, but which will benefit Ghana in the face of potential future health hazards. Recognising the need for vigilance, EVD preparedness activities continued, but with the immediate risk subsiding, the focus has shifted to an integrated approach to broader health system strengthening for public health events preparedness.
The outbreaks of meningitis and cholera in 2014-2015, causing a level two emergency, underlined the need to step up vigilance and preparation.
Natural Hazards: In June 2015, the City of Accra was struck by floods which led to the death of over 150 people, mainly persons who had taken refuge from flooded roads at a gas station which then caught fire. The UNCT’s response to this flood/fire disaster was aligned support through the Inter-Agency Working Group for Emergencies (IAWGE) with the Technical Advisory Committees of the National Disaster Management (NADMO) – with WHO taking a leadership role on health, UNICEF on WASH, and IOM on shelter. In the aftermath, NADMO requested the national technical group coordination mechanisms to be aligned with the UN Cluster Approach.
In October 2015, the UN supported a workshop on Cluster Approach to humanitarian crisis prevention, preparedness and response. Since then, a National Contingency Plan has been updated and a simulation exercise of urban flooding undertaken to look at the preparedness levels of national stakeholders and UN support in emergency management.
There are also initiatives underway to integrate disaster risk reduction and resilience into the national development agenda to ensure the sustainability of investments in WASH, urban renewal, and renewable energy interventions. In addition, special attention is given to other cross-cutting concerns such as gender issues addressing the risks that women and girls face in times of crisis.
Currently, the system for humanitarian coordination in Ghana comprises three strands: 1. Inter-ministerial coordination (through the Disaster Management Committees at national, regional and district levels that are activated only during disasters of national scope); 2. Hazard and relief-based coordination (through utilisation of NADMO’s Technical Advisory Committees at the national, regional and district levels); 3. Cluster/Sector-based coordination by the humanitarian working group (UN agencies and international NGOs) through the IAWGE. Within the IAWGE, the UN leads cluster/sector working groups on: food & nutrition (WFP), WASH (UNICEF), health (WHO), emergency shelter (IOM), logistics (UNICEF) and early recovery (UNDP).