The "Akpini Queen" delivers essential health commodities, supports health-related immunization campaigns, and provides disaster relief. It will serve as a blueprint for future medical boats in Ghana. Photo credit: FotoBox

In the east of Ghana, just six degrees north of the equator, lies Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made lake. The lake, formed with the construction of the Akosombo Dam and the damming of the Volta River in 1961, produces hydroelectric power for Ghana.

Around the large lake, which occupies 3.6% of Ghana’s total land area with a shoreline exceeding 3,000 miles (4,800 km), are many remote and hard-to-reach island communities. To facilitate access to health care for these difficult-to-access localities, URC’s USAID-supported Systems for Health Project designed a 25-seat medical boat which was delivered to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) on December 18, 2018.

Locally made, the pontoon boat, christened “Akpini Queen,” is equipped with two washrooms, medical supplies, a radio transmitter and receiver, and life jackets. The first of its kind in Ghana, this vessel will serve as a blueprint for the manufacture of future medical boats in the country.

The story of the Akpini Queen

At the boat’s commissioning ceremony, Deputy Director of Public Health Dr. Yaw Ofori Yeboah speaking on behalf of the Regional Director of Health Services, praised the outstanding collaboration between the GHS and the USAID Systems for Health Project in making the life-saving boat a reality. Dr. Yeboah emphasized the exemplary consultative processes, stating: “all parties have been actively engaged – from the design stage to the training of the coxswain to discussions on the maintenance of the vessel. This boat will significantly contribute to the promotion of health and well-being on the islands.”

Health care workers will be able to deliver services to 141 island communities in Kpando, Krachi West, and Biakoye districts transferring patients to health facilities on the mainland when needed. The boat will deliver essential health commodities, support health-related immunization campaigns, and provide disaster relief.

USAID Ghana Mission Director, Sharon Cromer, joined the Honorable Deputy Minister of Health, Kingsley Aboagye-Gyedu at the handover of the boat to the GHS saying: “the gesture formed part of efforts to collaborate with Ghana to achieve universal health coverage in the country.” According to Ms. Cromer, studies indicate that the maternal mortality ratio in the island communities is 310 deaths per 100,000 live births, a situation which, she said, was largely due to the absence of timely health interventions for residents of the deprived area, stating: “this pontoon boat will finally bring health services to your doorstep.”