It all started in 2009 shortly after Okyeame Kwame was crowned Artiste of the year at the Ghana Music Awards when the Okyeame Kwame Foundation decided to embark on a campaign to help curb hepatitis b in Ghana.
As to why Okyeame decided to embark on the project, he wrote on his blog (ok.ghanaweb.com) ‘’I went in for a hepatitis B test. It was expensive; it was GHc40. I gaped, I wondered; how will the ordinary Ghanaian afford? How will he/she even know that he must fear this stealthy killer with generic symptoms? In his quest to helping fight the disease, he consulted two Doctors, Dr. Kwame Boadu and Dr. Osei Appiah to conduct free screening for the people who may not be able to afford and also sensitize the public about it. This heralded the nationwide screening and vaccination exercise organized by the Okyeame Kwame Foundation.
The maiden exercise took place at Kumasi in the Ashanti region at Ayigya and Ayeduase. The screening which was supported by the Centre for Development of Deprived Communities (CDDC), a non-governmental organization, sought to screen and educate people who converged on the Ayigya (where Okyeame’s father comes from) taxi station and near Ayeduase Palace on the virus which seems to be gaining frightening grounds in the country. Holding credence to John F. Kennedy’s speech ‘’it’s not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,’’ after starting it on his home soil, Okyeame decided to extend the campaign to other parts of the country.
2010’s campaign was held at four places; Kumasi, Takoradi, Accra and Sunyani during the ‘OK In Your Zone’ nationwide tour. About 3000 people were screened out of this exercise. It was on the theme ‘’Hepatitis b is mean, don’t be green, get screened.’’
For two years, the clinics were funded solely by Okyeame Kwame. This was breaking Okyeame’s financial backbone because of the expensive nature of it until MDS-Lancet laboratories decided to support with personnel, machines, test strips and technical advice. The involvement of Dr. Paul Sekyere-Nyantakyi, CEO of MDS-Lancet Laboratories, well known for high quality health service delivery, helped advance the screening activities of Okyeame Kwame and his foundation. When they joined, Koforidua, Tamale, Sunyani, all benefitted from high quality screening.
The Greater Accra region also had its share of the hepatitis b campaign. Obra spot at Kwame Nkrumah circle was the venue for the 2011 project. The screening had the support of benevolent organizations and individuals such as the MTN Ghana Foundation, the Ghana Health Services, MDS-Lancet Laboratory and the Theobald Hepatitis B. Foundation among other allied bodies. After the high level of advocacy, the World Bank and Ghana Music awards in 2011 gave Okyeame Kwame the music for development award for his hepatitis themed song and activation.
In 2012, the decent, versatile and multiple award-winning hiplife artiste and his team of dedicated medical personnel from MDS-Lancet Laboratories in Accra screened about 1200 people for hepatitis b in Tamale.
About 700 people were also screened at the campaign at Accra in 2013. Obra Spot was the venue on the World Hepatitis b day which fell on July 28. The free screening was under the theme ‘’This is hepatitis, know it, confront it.’’ There, the Minister of Health, Sherry Ayitey graced the occasion and advised the public on the need to go for screening.
Prevalence rate of hepatitis after all this while remained at 15% in 2014. The foundation decided to add vaccination to prevent the people who test negative from getting the disease. The foundation therefore needed to raise funds to buy vaccines. A celebrity car wash at the Cahaya Car spa in East Legon was held to achieve this. It saw in attendance celebrities such as: Steven Appiah, Andy Dosty, Benny Blanco, Nikki Samonas, Sefa Kayi, Bola Ray, Delay, Ama K Abebrese, Kafui Dey, Raquel, Richie, MzVee, Elikem the Tailor, Gyo of Phamous Philms, Adjetey Annan, Van Vicker, Caroline Sampson, Jessica Opare Saforo, Naa Ashorkor, Praye Choirmaster, Beverly Afaglo, Flowkin Stone, George Quaye of Pundit, and Kofi Tsikata of World Bank, just to mention but few. The foundation was supposed to raise one hundred thousand cedis to cater for the screening administration and vaccination which are expensive. The Okyeame Kwame Foundation together with MTN Ghana Foundation, Japan Motors and MDS Lancet Laboratory and Roche Pharmaceuticals raised fifty thousand Ghana Cedis for the project.
2015 marks the 7th edition. It is slated to come off at Kumasi in the Ashanti region this July. As part of activities, Okyeame Kwame will make an appearance at the GNAT hall in Accra on the 28th of July the launch of HEPATITIS POLICY DOCUMENT. There will be free screening and vaccination on the 1st of August at Prempeh Assembly hall in Kumasi. The international theme for this year’s hepatitis campaign is “Prevent Hepatitis: It’s up to you” but the Okyeame Kwame Foundation has localized the theme ‘’let’s kick hepatitis out’’ because of the football euphoria in the country with the hashtag #preventhepatitis.
According to Okyeame Kwame; The fight against hepatitis is a very difficult one because of lifestyle choices – eg. Unprotected sex, level of education, stigma, traditional beliefs to mention a few. Although the foundation has not been able to reduce the prevalence rate by even 1 percent yet, it has, together with qualified personnel, screened over 7,000 people and vaccinated 900 people, and also engaged the media to promote and create the awareness.
In all the people screened and vaccinated across the country had been; Greater Accra – 2500, Tamale – 800, Kumasi – 2000, Sunyani – 1000 and Takoradi had 1000.
The vision of Okyeame Kwame Foundation is to “inspire alliances with Hepatitis stakeholders to impact on policy makers so that in unison we can reduce the prevalence rate by 50% by the year 2025 in Ghana.”
With the introduction of the policy document on hepatitis, the foundation is hopeful that in the not-too-distant future the free screening and vaccination will be done at the national level where health workers will go from house to house screening and vaccinating the public.
Okyeame Kwame says: THANK YOU FOR BEING A PART OF THE FIGHT AND KEEP SPREADING THE WORD. #preventhepatitis