The Upper East region has lost a third final-year student in a week in a suspected meningitis attack at the Zuarungu Senior High School (ZUSHS).
Pretty-looking Rukaya Ibrahimah, a General Arts student, died Sunday aged 19 years inside an isolation room (also called the “darkroom”) at the Upper East Regional Hospital.
Five more students from the same school are also said to be on admission at the hospital for showing signs of the disease, with three of them in critical condition.
Dr. Patrick Atobrah, Medical Director at the hospital, confirmed the tragedy after Starr News had visited the facility to interact with Rukaya’s worried-looking relations and friends of she before she passed on.
“We were in the school last Friday when she started complaining about her head and neck. We came and they (the regional hospital) gave her some malaria drugs which were expired when we checked. Yesterday, I was in school when they called me that she had been admitted,” a close friend to the deceased, Munira Karim, told Starr News.
Nurses who attended to the student in the “darkroom” said she showed signs of meningitis. Speaking to Starr News Sunday afternoon, Dr. Atobrah said some samples of blood drawn from her body whilst still alive were being examined to establish the cause of death.
Rukaya’s elder brother, Laminu, lamented: “They told us it was a suspected case of meningitis. What pains us is that she was brought here yesterday. They couldn’t do the test. I stood for hours. Saliva in form of foam was coming out from her mouth and nose, like when you apply soap on water. They were pumping it out. I ran inside the ward. I don’t know whether I flew or jumped. I believe the test should have been done yesterday, not today.”
Her father, who arrived from the Bawku West District this morning after receiving a word that his daughter had been taken ill, was too distraught to speak as a mortuary attendant wheeled the corpse slowly away to the morgue.
A wave of meningitis attack in the region left two final-year students dead only last week at the Bawku Senior High Technical School and the Tempane Senior High School with several students hospitalised at the Bawku Presbyterian Hospital.
Some parents, amid a pounding meningitis scare, stormed the affected schools to temporarily withdraw their children to safety.
Several students at the Zuarungu Senior High School lodged grave complaints about congestion at their dormitories when Starr News visited the school Sunday.
“A room meant for 32 students is being shared by over 70 students because each of the 32 beds inside a dormitory is being shared by two students and there are those who sleep on the floor. The Hilla Limann House is more crowded than the Abaabagre House and, as you can see, there are a lot of chop boxes packed in the veranda because there is no space inside to keep them,” said a student.
Another student grumbled: “This time is better. The early months of the year are always the worst, when the weather is so unbearable most of us are forced to sleep outside. Come around when that time comes and see for yourself what happens here.”
Health Coalition Decries Congestion in Schools
Meanwhile, the Upper East Regional Secretariat of the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health is gushing tears over the “massive congestion” at boarding schools in the region with a plea on government to address the situation before things spin out of control.
“Intelligence has indicated that the recent reports of the occurrence of meningitis which has claimed many lives so far is precipitated by overcrowding in the schools. Our investigations show that most schools in the region have been compelled to run the in-out system of lodging with many students sleeping outside due to overcrowding.
“These unorthodox arrangements by the affected schools through not any fault of theirs is unthinkable as it comes with a myriad of health menace. Between October and November this year many schools in the region had had to contend with several deaths of students blamable to the stress many of them especially those already with compromised health statuses were going through,” said a statement signed and issued by the Upper East Regional Chairman of the coalition, Asakeya Noble Alagskomah.
The statement added, “Given the mass negative impact of the disease to the people of the region and for that matter Ghana, we suggest the following [among others] for containing and comprehensively managing the situation in order to prevent further mortality: De-congest all boarding to avoid the spread of the disease by providing tents or pavilions to shelter students till the rains set or the conditions are favourable and to avoid further overcrowding of our schools in the next academic year, steps should be taken to avoid placing more applicants than the schools can contain.”
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