AT News Team, Jan. 4, 2015:   More than 700,000 volunteers were mobilized last Sunday (Dec. 28) by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Ghana. They played a key role in the country’s first National Sanitation Day. The nation’s chief of state, President John D. Mahama declared the event to combat cholera outbreaks and improve the infrastructure and environment.

Adventist volunteers shoveled slit out of gutters, moved trash out of the streets and repaired sources of clean water, reported the Ghana News Agency (GNA). It quoted denominational leaders challenging other Christian bodies to join the initiative.

“We must move away from curing disease to prevention as the answer to Ghana’s health problems,” Pastor Samuel Larmie, president of the denomination’s Southern Ghana Union Conference, told GNA. “We can’t sit down and fold our arms and watch people die,” noting the value that Christian faith should place on good health and the sacredness of life.

It is unfortunate that politics polarize the nation and public health should be de-politicized, Dr. William Brown, director of ADRA Ghana told GNA. ADRA is the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the denomination’s international humanitarian organization. Brown urged the government to enforce public health laws, implement better sanitation policies and include health education in the school curricula.

A cabinet member for the national government, Julius Debrah, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, responded with a statement that “sanitation remained high on government’s agenda.” He told GNA that the current government was investing heavily in infrastructure projects related to drainage, water supply and health care facilities.

The Peace FM Online news service reported that the Adventist volunteers focused particularly on Central Accra and Osu, as well as the Teshie Seashore. It also quoted Larmie as he called on “other churches to [make] their contribution.” He stated that if the churches would “do their part to improve the physical health just like they do for the spiritual health, our society would be healthy.” It also reported that the denomination made cash donations to the Ussher Polyclinic as part of the project.

There are more than 3,100 Adventist congregations in Ghana with a total of 408,844 members at the end of 2013 (the latest year on record). Researchers estimate that the total number of Adventist adherents (including children and other non-baptized believers who attend church) is probably three or four times the membership number. During 2013 the membership grew by nearly six percent.