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Ghana: A story of success and hope

Apr 07, 2016
By Ashley Meruani, Kiwanis International Foundation development officer, Kiwanis Club of North Indy Evening

In November 2015, I had the life-changing opportunity to participate in a special field visit in Ghana, located on the western coast of Africa. Ghana eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus in late 2011.

While the fear of MNT is gone, there remains an important focus on sustainability and education efforts. During the trip my group met local volunteers, medical experts and mothers, as well as observed UNICEF activities related to newborn care.

I came away from the journey with a fresh perspective on the work that myself and thousands of Kiwanians around the world are so committed to and have given so much of our lives to achieving. Below are some of the distinct impressions I have from this experience. I will carry the memories of the impact we are making with me for the rest of my life.

UNICEF Ghana works seamlessly with the Ghanaian government. They by no means are taking on this work alone. UNICEF Ghana and the Ghanaian Health Services work together to build capacity. Without this important relationship, neither organization would be able to accomplish what they set out to do, as effectively as they do.

Past Kiwanis International President Dr. John Button says our campaign is reaching women “where the roads don’t go.” My experience definitely mirrored those words. When we met with a local health committee, this was the view from our meeting. Our campaign is working, and it is working in the most remote regions around the globe.

The conditions in the hospital were very hard for me to see. The facilities were filled to capacity in 100-degree weather. Women were crowded together throughout every stage of labor. Ghanaian women are tough, doing whatever they have to do to ensure that their babies are born healthy, in safe conditions and tetanus-free.

In a remote village, I spoke to a midwife who serves ten villages. She told me that sometimes when women are in labor, they don’t want to go to the local health clinic. She has to go to them and help them give birth in their hut. When she assists in a home delivery she always brings rubber mats—an important element in a safe and sterile home birth.

At the local health committee meeting, this woman in the photo shared that when it was vaccination day in her village, some women would take their children and run into the bush because they felt that vaccinations were punishments. This woman single-handedly sat down with the women in her village to explain that vaccines are not punishment—they are vital to ensure a healthy future for the next generation. She was proud to share with us that now everyone in her village receives their vaccinations.

We were lucky to visit a health center during an infant health care day. As we stood under the tin roof where babies were being measured and vaccinated, we heard that there was a mother that had walked more than two hours to get her baby vaccinated at the clinic that day. We asked her why she walked the 2.5 hours. Her answer was simple: “For my baby.” It is simply what she had to do to keep her baby healthy. And with that, she and her infant set out on their 2.5 hour walk back home.

Everywhere we went we asked if anyone had seen a recent case of tetanus. The answer was always no. Ghana is a success story. Personally, I came away with an unshakeable notion. What could possibly be a better investment than to give a child a chance at life? That’s what The Eliminate Project does—it gives the most vulnerable children in the world the chance at life. What could be more important?

If you already support our campaign, thank you. What you are doing is changing the world for the better. If you haven’t yet, please consider a gift to our Global Campaign for Children at

Other members of the delegation include: Jim and Dottie Mann, members of the Hilldale, Clarksville Kiwanis Club, Kentucky-Tennessee District; Stan Storey, member of the Arlington, Jacksonville Kiwanis Club, Florida District;  representatives from the U.S Fund for UNICEF; and supporters from the Latter Day Saints Charities.