Clinical trials give hope to mothers in Ghana

Jul 23, 2010


In a hot, dry town in Ghana called Navrongo, a group of mothers gathered one day last year at a health clinic.

The mothers - about 30 of them - had traveled on foot and by bicycle, carrying their young children, to meet with the doctors and health workers overseeing a vaccine trial for an illness called rotavirus in which their children were participating.

Rotavirus, which is a form of severe diarrhea that comes on fast and can kill quickly, takes the lives of about 1500 children each year in Ghana. Many of those children die in rural areas like Navrongo, far away from the urban areas of Accra, where access to medical care is hard to reach. While rotavirus vaccines have been used widely in the US and Europe for several years, the Ghana trial has been a critical step in gathering evidence about the effectiveness of those vaccines in impoverished settings where the disease takes a much greater toll than wealthy countries. 

The women created a sea of color - in vibrant dresses and tops, jeans and printed wraps, simple beaded necklaces and earrings. Their children mostly were quiet, eyes soft and imploring, as their mothers held them close.

As a visitor, my plan was to ask the most basic of questions: What motivated them to participate in the trial, and what did they hope to get out of it? What I heard was the most basic of answers: This is a chance not only to save our children from a dangerous disease - but a chance to give them, through a healthy childhood, a better shot at living their dreams.

Tamikebe, 29 and Akil, 11 months
"I hope that Akil will have a good life, be God-fearing and be a prominent person. Also, I want him to be an accountant."


Elizabeth, 30 and Deborah, 10 months
“She is a strong girl. Other mothers are saying, ‘This is a cheap baby! She is not giving you any trouble.'”


Cynthia, 26 and Cassey, 1 year, 8 months
“When he has diarrhea, I worry about losing him.”


Felicia, 24 and Crispin, 2
“My hopes for Crispin: That he will become a lawyer. Lawyers are always helping people...I hope that nothing will be difficult for him.”