Through partnerships with the Ghanaian government and local and international nongovernmental organizations, The Carter Center has helped advance peace and health in Ghana by observing elections and working long-term to fight preventable diseases and increase crop production.
The Carter Center observed Ghana's 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections - including the first round, a runoff election, and a re-vote in Tain constituency. In the end, former Vice President John Atta Mills defeated Nana Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the incumbent party. The Carter Center concluded that although there were several important areas needing improvement - voter education, political party behavior, election dispute resolution - the largely peaceful and transparent conduct of these elections was an important step forward in Ghana's continued democratic consolidation and role as a regional leader.
In 1992, The Carter Center sent an election-monitoring team to Ghana's first democratic presidential election in more than 30 years. Jerry Rawlings, in power since 1981, won with 58 percent of the vote. Although opposition parties protested the results, The Carter Center concluded that the election was generally well-conducted and properly expressed the will of the Ghanaian people.
Following this return to democracy, Ghana underwent three more elections, in 1996, 2000, and 2004, in which power alternated between the two largest political parties.
In 2008, President John Agyekum Kufuor was constitutionally barred from running for a third term. With no presidential incumbent and no clear front-runner, the political environment intensified quickly in the months preceding the election. Members of the domestic and international community feared that if the elections were not executed properly, Ghana's electoral institutions and practices could be undermined, and other countries undergoing democratic transitions could backslide.
The Carter Center launched an international election observation mission in Ghana in May 2008 to encourage fairness in the electoral process and acceptance of the election results by all political stakeholders. After an initial presidential vote, a runoff and a revore in one constituency, former Vice President John Atta Mills defeated Nana Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the incumbent party.
The Carter Center concluded that although there were several important areas needing improvement — voter education, political party behavior, and election dispute resolution — the largely peaceful and transparent conduct of these elections was an important step forward in Ghana's continued democratic consolidation and role as a regional leader.
Through agricultural development, Guinea worm disease eradication, and trachoma elimination, The Carter Center and the Ghana Ministry of Health built a strong partnership for nearly a quarter-century, helping the Ghanaian people receive access to the tools and knowledge they need to improve their own lives and build hope for a healthier future.
Current status: Transmission stopped, May 2010 (Read the announcement)
Ghana launched its national Guinea Worm Eradication Program (GWEP) in 1988 after becoming one of the Carter Center GWEP's first country partners in December of 1987. Nearly 180,000 cases of the disease were reported during the country's first national case search in 1989, ranking Ghana second in the world in cases at the time. Suffering was widespread. Schools closed in endemic communities due to large numbers of students being afflicted, farmers were unable to tend their fields, and families became further entrenched in dire poverty.
The Ghana Guinea Worm Eradication Program introduced the following approaches: health education; distribution of nylon household filters and pipe filters to strain out water fleas with infected larvae; safe, monthly treatment of stagnant water sources with ABATE® larvicide, donated by BASF; direct advocacy with water organizations; and increased efforts to build safer hand-dug wells. Village volunteers, who were trained, supplied, and supervised by the program, carried out monthly surveillance.
Interventions were tailored to meet the unique needs of migratory farming populations. Targeted radio messages and the development of additional educational materials also were important tools in efforts to stop disease transmission.
Through a public awareness campaign to fight the stigma associated with Guinea worm disease, the Ghana Guinea Worm Eradication Program publicized the importance of immediately reporting all cases.
In 2001, The Carter Center engaged the women of the Ghana Red Cross Society to work with and support village volunteers in the most affected districts. The Red Cross Society women – who at one point, numbered more than 5,000 – were the eyes and ears of the community, reporting cases, ensuring proper use of filters, and preventing worm contamination in water sources.
Yet, Ghana also faced many challenges during its campaign to wipe out the disease. Ethnic fighting in the highest endemic area — the eastern part of the Northern region — disrupted health efforts. A 2005-2006 breakdown in the main water supply caused a large outbreak in the town of Savelugu in the district of Savelugu-Nanton in 2006-2007.
Despite these setbacks, Ghana steadily reported annual reductions in cases. In July 2011, after completing 14 consecutive months reporting zero indigenous cases of Guinea worm disease, Ghana Vice President John Mahama officially announced that the country had stopped disease transmission after a 22-year (1988-2010) battle.
The Carter Center ended its in-country activities in Ghana in August 2011, and in 2015, Ghana was certified by the World Health Organization as having eliminated Guinea worm disease.
From 1999 to 2011, with support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Carter Center'sTrachoma Control Program helped the Ghana Health Service's Trachoma Control Program promote hygiene and sanitation in a number of ways.
The Center supported the training of more than 8,000 community health workers, including teachers, environmental health officers, and village volunteers to deliver core program messages to rural villages. Radio broadcasts of trachoma prevention jingles were used to reach Ghanaian villagers living in some of the most isolated and remote areas of the country. The program donated wind-up radios and supported local stations in the production and broadcast of weekly trachoma shows, hosting "radio listening clubs" in the Upper West region for members to discuss shows' messages.
Additionally, The Carter Center supported household latrine construction to improve environmental sanitation and development of a trachoma surveillance system to sustain the nation's achievements against this devastating disease.
In 2008, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem through implementation of the SAFE strategy.
The Center ended its in-country activities in Ghana in August 2011.
Working with the Ghanaian Ministry of Farming and Agriculture, the Carter Center's Agriculture Program began assisting farmers in the Ashanti and Central regions of Ghana in 1986 to improve food security. The program was part of a larger joint initiative with the Sasakawa Africa Association, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, that helped more than 8 million small-scale, sub-Saharan farmers.
Farmers were provided credit for fertilizers and seeds to grow production test plots. Following successful harvests, they taught their neighbors about the new technologies, creating a ripple effect to stimulate food self-reliance in the nation.
The program also assisted the Ghanaian people to develop and cultivate an improved type of maize, "obantanpa," or "good nursing mother," that yields as much corn per acre as other maize varieties yet contains a more complete form of protein.
Infant mortality in Ghana often is linked with malnutrition, primarily because the maize porridge that infants are weaned on lacks complete nutrition, preventing the development of strong, healthy bodies that can ward off disease and infection. This so-called quality protein maize has decreased the incidence of protein malnutrition significantly. Read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Article: Altered Corn Helps Ghana's Children Fight Malnutrition >
Since improving agricultural development is only half the battle, the program helped identify less costly, more efficient local markets for the farmers to sell their surplus crops, with a higher margin of profit. It developed projects focused on post-harvest technologies, including methods for processing and storing; and neighboring countries were encouraged to foster lasting cooperative efforts. As a result of these activities, officials from Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea, and Senegal studied Ghana's experience with the hope of establishing similar agricultural programs in their own countries.
These successes and others in agricultural development programming led the Center to end its in-country agricultural activities in Ghana in 2003.
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Size: 238,533 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 24 percent
Life expectancy: 66 years
Ethnic groups: Akan, Mole-Dagbon, Ewe, Ga-Dangme, Gurma, Guan, Grusi, Mande-Busanga, other
Religion: Christian (Pentecostal/Charismatic, Protestant, Catholic, other), Muslim, traditional, other, none
Languages: Asante, Ewe, Fante, Boron (Brong), Dagomba, Dangme, Dagarte (Dagaba), Kokomba, Akyem, Ga, other
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2016