In June of this year, Dr Declan Cody, a paediatric endocrinologist, and Mr Vincent McDarby, a senior clinical psychologist, from Our Lady's Childrens Hospital, Crumlin (OLCHC), Ireland, travelled to Accra, Ghana. The journey itself only took seven hours but the experience was a life-changing one.
As professional members of the International Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD), Dr Cody and Mr McDarby had heard about the IDF Life for a Child (LFAC) Programme and got in touch with LFAC General Manager Dr Graham Ogle to discuss the possibility of the Crumlin Diabetes Centre getting involved. The relationship built from there: "We were delighted to be linked with Ghana" said Dr Cody, "and having received questionnaires back from the doctors and the Ghana National Diabetes Association (GNDA) regarding the problems they are facing, we decided to travel there ourselves to get a better understanding and to guide us as to how we might be (best) able to help."
The trip came together quickly and in June the group spent a total of six days in Ghana, hosted by Mrs Elizabeth Denyoh of GNDA. Time in Accra, Ghana's capital, centred around visiting the main hospital, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, and talking with local doctors and medical staff. The team from Crumlin then flew to Kumasi, 250 kilometres north-west of Accra, and met with Dr Emmanuel Ameyaw - currently Ghana's only paediatric endocrinologist - who guided them around his hospital.
"The journey certainly opened our eyes to the serious issues facing children and adolescents with diabetes in this country" Dr Cody remarked,"particularly if they can't afford to purchase the very basics. We saw firsthand the difficulties in relation to storage of insulin, non-availability of glucometers and strips, and lack of (blood glucose) testing. One episode highlighted these issues: as we were being taken to see one young girl, our host contacted the mother to let her know we were on her way and we were told that she had died two days earlier having only just been discharged from hospital (possibly DKA-related)."
The Crumlin Diabetes Centre's Parents Group provided funds to assist the group with their travel costs, and have since pledged €10,000 to LFAC's work in Ghana. Life for a Child is extremely grateful to both the Crumlin Diabetes Centre and the Parents Group for their generous support. Through its collaboration with the local organisations such as the National Diabetes Association and the Komfe Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, LFAC is able to provide insulin, self-blood glucose monitoring equipment, and HbA1c point of care testing to approximately 600 children and youth in cities and towns across Ghana.