Praised Kumasi medical waste incinerator rises many disturbing questions

6.12.2018 - KUMASI
PHOTO: Martin Holzknecht / Arnika

Kumasi is the second largest city of Ghana, capital of the Ashanti Region and the home to His Royal Majesty Asantehene ("Emperor-King") Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II. Located roughly 200 kilometers North-West from Accra, the city is an inland cultural and political centre with profound history which can be seen in the Fort Kumasi, the Asantehene's Palace or the Manhyia Palace. Nowadays, the largest open space market in Western Afrika, Kejetia Market is a major tourist destination. However, none of those were the reasons we decided to visit Kumasi as we sought to find a medical waste incinerator...

Local hospital uses a furnace to get rid of various types of waste. It gets here packed in an ordinary plastic bags, the operator of the burning process describes. Benjamin, as his name tag introduces him, is very keen to explain us all details regarding the incineration. "We use a secondary combustion to get rid of the emitting particles," he points to a red burner attached to one side of the chimney. 

The hospital president accompanying us is similarily fourthcoming while talking about the waste management eventhough he most probably notices our concerned looks resulting from his answers. For example, over how little he is interested in what happens to potentially toxic remains from the incinerator. Every week, a private company carries away a pile of ashes away. Where to? Nobody form the hospital really knows.

And what about the unflamable material such as glass flasks? For that, the solution is eve easier - they are being pilled up next to the incinerator for which we recieved no further explanation.

See Arnika's photos: Another medical waste incinerator we found by the hospital in Ashanti Region

Despite these evident flaws, hospital administration believes that the incinerator is a safe and the optimal solution to the medical waste management. The president himself is visibly proud for bringing it into operation five years ago. Whether he had taken into accout the villagers living and farming few hundreds of meters further has not been specified.

All in all, the analyses of the sampled ashes residue will tell us more. But it seems unlikely that even unflattering results would cause the local medical waste management to change.

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