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UNFPA Ghana responds to Relief Boxes Challenge launched by the First Lady of Ghana

On 2nd April 2020, H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo the First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, launched the Relief Boxes Challenge at her office in Accra. The purpose of this challenge was to encourage individuals and institutions to support the programme by providing relief items which would be distributed to the most vulnerable in the society, whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the outbreak of COVID19 in Ghana.

Leveraging on the “because I want to be project” implemented by the Rebecca Foundation and UNFPA Ghana, the Fund became one of two organisations that responded to this laudable challenge at the launch of the Relief Boxes Challenge. Relief items were presented to PAYDP and the gatekeepers of the kayayei communities for distribution to kayayei.  The kayayei population constitutes one of the key marginalised groups that needs considerable attention in addressing the precautionary measures or restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the novel corona virus in Ghana. With a population of more than 30,000 internal migrant women and girls located mostly in market centres in the Southern part of Ghana, these kayayei are exposed to very unhygienic conditions in the markets where they live and work.

Dr. Robert Mensah, Reproductive Health Specialist at UNFPA, in handing over the items highlighted why sanitary pads were considered essential for survival. He said, “Our donation includes sanitary pads so that the recipients can practise proper menstrual hygiene even in these times. Menstruation does not know crisis, and does not cease because of crisis.”  The First Lady, to whom the relief items were presented, graciously accepted them and commended UNFPA’s response efforts to the challenge: “UNFPA is our traditional partner so it is not surprising that they have so promptly identified with the Relief Boxes Challenge.”

The meagre livelihood of these women and girls has been threatened by the warranted partial lockdown situation that in affected some major cities in Ghana as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID19. This has made it next to impossible for them to have the means to purchase items for their personal protection. As the lead UN agency that supports vulnerable young people, UNFPA procured hygiene items for distribution to kayayei in their intervention areas with the Purim Africa Youth Development Platform (PAYPD), which includes markets in Accra, Kumasi and other cities in Ghana. Following a quick needs assessment conducted in partnership with PAYPD through consultations with kayayei gatekeepers, the following items were provided: veronica buckets, liquid and bar soap, bleach, hand sanitizers, nose masks and sanitary pads.

Mr. Niyi Ojuolape, Representative of UNFPA, shared reasons why supporting in this capacity is important. According to him, with these items, the kayayei population would be able to protect themselves from infections with reduced dependence on men, and consequently curb their susceptibility to sexual and gender-based violence, harmful practices and other gendered inequalities they face. “In this way, they can maintain their human dignity even in this crisis situation.”