On July 20, SEND GHANA, a Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) Prevent Epidemics program partner, held the second annual Epidemic Preparedness Awards to honor and celebrate outstanding Ghanaian journalists and policy champions who have contributed to raising public awareness and political will for epidemic preparedness financing. This year's awards focused on honoring individuals who published stories supporting the establishment of a Public Health Emergency Fund (PHEF) in Ghana to bolster the nation's readiness for future disease outbreaks.

The event had a remarkable turnout, with 90 participants in attendance. The gathering comprised representatives from crucial government bodies such as the Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Integration, as well as respective Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs). Also in attendance were key stakeholders including the Ghana Health Service, National Centre for Coordination of Early Warning and Response Mechanism, Office of the National Chief Imam, Ghana Journalist Association, Ghana Independent Broadcaster Association, civil society organizations and two members of Parliament.

In his welcome address, Mr. Siapha Kamara, the Chief Executive Officer of SEND WEST AFRICA, acknowledged the journalists and focal persons for their relentless efforts in championing epidemic preparedness financing. He urged the government to heed the calls for domestic financing, emphasizing the critical role journalists and champions play in ensuring Ghana is prepared for future epidemics or pandemics. He described their work as a critical national assignment and highlighted the need for continued support in strengthening the nation's health system.

A representative from the MOH spoke at the event to encourage others to join the call for sustainable domestic financing for epidemic preparedness in Ghana. The MOH representative expressed appreciation to SEND GHANA and its partners for their advocacy efforts. The representative stressed the importance of joint efforts and urged journalists to collaborate more with other stakeholders to achieve the common goal of epidemic preparedness.

The presence of the Honorable Betty-Crosby Mensah, a Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Health and Member of Parliament for the Afram Plains North, and the Honorable Boakye Yiadom, Vice Chairman for Parliament’s Select Committee for Health, added significance to the event. Ms. Mensah revealed that Parliament is working on a vaccine production bill as part of Ghana’s epidemic preparedness actions. She also mentioned that the Parliament is considering setting aside dedicated funding for public health emergencies. Possible sources of funds discussed included allocating a percentage of funds from the National Health Insurance Levy, the COVID-19 Levy, and other health taxes such as those on tobacco and alcohol.

SEND-GHANA recognized 13 exceptional individuals for their unwavering commitment to championing emergency preparedness funding in Ghana, particularly their efforts to advocate for the establishment of the PHEF. The first set of awards was dedicated to five focal persons and the Ghana Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Youth Sub-platform, who have been outstanding in advocating at the local level. The awards were divided into three categories: social media, community radio and results of dialogues with the MMDAs. Walter Mawuli Gli of the TERIA Foundation, along with the Ghana SDGs Youth Sub-platform, were honored for their impactful social media advocacy. Dr. David Azaare of the Bawku Municipal District Citizens Monitoring Committee and Samuel Atidzah of GOSANET were recognized for their exceptional efforts in community radio advocacy.

The awards ceremony also honored journalists in four categories for their reporting on epidemic preparedness financing: radio, television, print and online. Among the winners, Albert Futukpor of the Ghana News Agency won the top prize for producing the Most Impactful Story and Best Online Reporting. Other winners who have made significant contributions include Mutala Issah of Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, who received the award for the Best TV Reporting. Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman of the EIB Network was recognized for Best Radio Reporting. Abigail Annoh from the Ghanaian Times Corporation was awarded Best Print Reporting. Special mentions were given to Zadok Kwame Gyesi and Benedicta Folly, who were runners-up in the print and online categories, respectively.

In his closing remarks, Stephen Atasige, In-Country Coordinator for Ghana for GHAI’s Prevent Epidemics program, which is supported by Resolve to Save Lives, made the critical point that the power of collaboration should be acknowledged, and he encouraged journalists and champions to work hand in hand with policymakers, civil society organizations, healthcare professionals and communities to create a synergy that drives sustainable epidemic preparedness financing solutions.

The second annual Epidemic Preparedness Awards in Ghana was a resounding success, recognizing the efforts of exceptional journalists and local-level champions in advocating for epidemic preparedness and response financing. These individuals have shown unwavering dedication in their pursuit of a stronger health system and the establishment of a PHEF. By amplifying their voices and influencing policymakers, they are contributing to a safer and more resilient Ghana.

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