Ghana, 18 August 2023 – At the border, in the town of Paga in northern Ghana, wearing a white coat, latex gloves and carrying a thermometer, Flora and her assistants are preparing to welcome another busload of passengers for a health check.  

She is a public health officer and mother of two, with a master's degree in public health.  Considerate but strict, she is mandated to oversee the health conditions of travellers entering the country at the Point of Entry (PoE).  With her team, they also take care of the border community and border officers working at the border.  She strongly promotes interagency cooperation and cross border cooperation in her work which make for better access to information in order to respond to the needs travellers and to address any public health concern at the PoE.  As such, she monitors daily the prevailing sanitary conditions at the border area in coordination with the relevant local and central authorities in Ghana and her counterparts on the other side of the border, in Burkina Faso. 

" Ensuring public health in a commune far from the capital is a vocation and I am privileged to serve members of the community here in Paga. I just want to make a difference and have a significant impact wherever I'm asked to work” she says. 

Passionate about her work, together with a team of environmental health officers and community health nurses, they ensure that public health and safety measures are strictly adhered to at the border area. From members of the community to travellers crossing the border for various reasons, nothing escapes Flora's vigilance. As a border official, she is dedicated to support to facilitate safe cross border movement and uses a community platform to collect information from the community to assess the health conditions and write her reports.

Flora sharing opening remarks during training on operations and maintenance for the newly commissioned WASH and isolation facilities at the Paga border. ©IOM 2023

However, these tasks have not always been easy, given the difficulties encountered in the past due to the lack of facilities. Although needs still remain to be addressed, she says that IOM’s support through the Immigration and Border Governance (IBG) programme has been very significant to boost the operational capacities of the port health services in Paga, especially during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, .  Flora recalls the serious challenges that she and her team faced during the crisis, especially with regards to the perceptions of the community about the pandemic and the impact that the lack of access to hard-to-reach areas had both on the physical and psychological conditions of people.  The support provided by IOM, in terms of infrastructure, equipment and training, was instrumental in enabling her and her colleagues to continue to effectively ensure the safety and well-being of the border communities.  

 Flora affirms that the infrastructural facilities provided by the IOM have helped to improve her working conditions as well as enhanced access of travellers and reception facilities which have helped to reduce the risk of infection and has reinforced disease prevention and control. "We worked with the IOM to expand the isolation unit, which enabled us to increase our capacity from 2 patients to 6". She adds. 

Flora conducting Fatou Ndiaye ( IOM Ghana Chief of Mission) around the newly constructed WASH and isolation facilities at the Paga land crossing point. ©IOM 2023

Walking along an alley between two buildings to reach her office, she talks enthusiastically about the strong collaboration her team has with other border agencies, in particular with the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS). Their collaboration was further strengthened by the joint trainings offered by IOM that helped border officials to develop a common vision and an integrated approach to strengthen safety and security at the border area in Ghana.  She is also grateful for the engagement of the communities through the common information-sharing platform, which has enabled her team to forge a strong connection with the members of the community. To demonstrate the success of this team effort, she explains that “Thanks to the community platform, the volunteers and community leaders were informed of the recent anthrax epidemic in the region, and the information was rapidly disseminated to the community that complied immediately with the health instructions”. 

With a big smile on her face, she approves of the current efforts, but as a health officer in a border community looking for better results, Flora is in favour of more support to ensure preparedness and immediate assistance to the communities in the event of a crisis. 

Written by Moustapha Kalil Ouattara, Communications Consultant at the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa, 

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals