UN in Ghana: Our doors are still open virtually amidst COVID-19
UN Staff in Ghana continue to work in support of the Government's national response and recovery efforts in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The day was March 12, and the country went silent, but for a moment. This was the day Ghana announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19. They were two cases, all imported; one of them a UN personnel returning home from duty travel.
Understandably, this brought shock waves to everyone in the country, and staff of the UN were not excluded. For a health threat as devastating as what we have heard, its arrival in Ghana, and on a UN premises for that matter, was a wake-up call to action to intensify efforts and work together to end this pandemic.
In compliance with safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the affected UN offices were closed and all staff members in those buildings were asked to stay home and self-quarantine. National authorities, under the stringent directives of the Ministry of Health, undertook contact tracing and investigation to test people who were in contact with the cases.
Further, the Acting Resident Coordinator at the time, Ms. Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, in consultation with the Outbreak Committee, elevated UN Ghana’s COVID-19 preparedness mode to high alert. She advised all UN entities to implement teleworking except for staff performing critical functions.
A Crisis Management Team with sub-groups on communications, medical, psychosocial programmes and operations were activated. For hours and days, the groups met virtually to work out modalities to finalise the country’s contingency plan. With the support of technical staff and Heads of Agencies, measures were strengthened to reduce risk at work for critical staff coming to the offices.
Thanks to technology, which comes to our rescue in times like these, our first virtual townhall meeting was held with all staff to discuss and share information on safety and business continuity measures in April.
From day one when Ghana officially announced its first COVID-19 case and the UN physically closed its premises to UN Ghana staff members have done everything within their means to ensure continuity through tele-work.
When the first affected compound was closed, anxious staff members gathered at the entrance of the building to retrieve their working tools. The process was well coordinated and did not pose any danger to anyone. At the front line of this retrieval exercise was Daniel Mills, an IT specialist and a UN staff. He followed due protocol to retrieve several personal computers and other equipment for staff to enable them work remotely. Daniel has also been a strong nerve to the system providing much needed IT support to the Resident Coordinator and other agencies when necessary.
It has been a while since the first case was reported. Since then, the Government of Ghana is doing everything within its capacity to control the spread of the pandemic, and with the support of the United Nations and other development partners the country is making steady progress in its response and recovery efforts.
The UN is poised to support the Government of Ghana to defeat COVID-19 and UN staff in Ghana are resolved to continue working from home to effectively support the national response to the COVID-19 outbreak and implement critical development programmes where feasible.
As emphasized by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, we will come through this together.