Many people in the small town of Ba, Ghana, are afraid of HIV/AIDS. But few have ever heard of hepatitis B. When the Compassion centre in Ba held their first health screening, four children tested positive for hepatitis B.
The virus spreads through various bodily fluids and, if untreated, can lead to advanced liver scarring, liver cancer or liver failure. Eventually, it can lead to death. Every year, 1.5 million people worldwide die from hepatitis B, and the World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B.
But many Ghanaians know little about the symptoms, prevention or treatment of the virus. That’s why the Compassion centre at the Ba Methodist Church held a campaign to build awareness, vaccinate, test and treat the people in their community.
The campaign started with a parade. Compassion children marched through the main streets of Ba, carrying banners with messages about hepatitis B to create awareness. Then there were educational workshops for children and parents on how to prevent the disease and what the symptoms are.
The centre went the extra mile—literally—and educated the entire Ba community and two neighbouring communities. Fifteen volunteers were given intensive training on hepatitis B and then sent into the communities. They went to six houses every day for a week to educate every occupant in the home on how to prevent hepatitis B. The volunteers also encouraged them to be tested.
At the end of the week, 630 households had been educated, and 4,429 people had been reached!
The final and most important stage of the campaign was on counselling, testing and vaccination for Compassion children, their siblings and caregivers. Each family member received the vaccinations and also had the opportunity to be tested.
Richard Clayman, a father of a Compassion child, says, “I knew about hepatitis B, but I did not think that it was anything to worry about. Truth is, I thought it was too far away from me. But the Ba Methodist Church has made us aware about how close and frightening the disease is. These revelations have put me on guard.”
“I found out how expensive it is to test for hepatitis B and also to get vaccinated,” Richard continues. “Compassion bore all the cost for the whole family. This intervention by Compassion has put our minds at peace.”
This intervention was made possible by donations to Compassion’s Complementary Interventions. Justice, the Compassion centre director, was overwhelmed by all the project achieved. “I feel fulfilled with the work we have done,” he says. “What this hepatitis B prevention has done in Ba, words cannot describe. I wish we had the opportunity to meet our donors; we would have demonstrated our appreciation to them in a special way. It is not easy to give such an amount to help people they do not even know. We thank the donors so much and we pray that God will continue to increase them and give them long lives.”
By Vera Mensah-Bediako, Compassion Ghana