CRS History in Ghana
Catholic Relief Services has been operational in Ghana since 1958, just one year after Ghana achieved independence from Britain.
In our early days, CRS' programs provided general assistance, but did not target specifically poor or vulnerable people. For instance, in the 1950s food support was provided to schools, hospitals and teachers' training colleges, and most of the focus was on Catholic institutions.
In the late 1960s, CRS' agency strategy changed from general welfare aid to targeted assistance. As a result, CRS shifted support from teachers' training centers to primary schools. Instead of providing food to all hospital patients, CRS focused on mothers and children.
In the 1970s, Ghana's Health Ministry asked CRS to support government health centers throughout the country. This decision came after CRS had successfully carried out a small pilot program that provided food to mothers and children in addition to providing growth charts, educational material and scales. CRS continued to work with 25 Catholic hospitals, but also began expanding to government-administered facilities, ultimately working with more than 130 centers.
The economic downturn in the late 1970s, which was followed by droughts and food shortages, devastated Ghanaians through the early to mid-1980s. CRS continued to provide food assistance to those most in need, particularly families with young children. But CRS recognized that even adults did not have enough food, as crops had failed and few alternative economic opportunities existed beyond farming. CRS responded with food-for-work programs that ensured access to food for adults who participated in community development projects, such as digging wells and building community infrastructures.
In the early 1990s, as Ghana's economy became more stable, CRS began to look critically at our priorities. School feeding continued to be a focus, but it became apparent that the greatest need was in the rural areas where Ghanaians did not have access to quality health services. CRS shifted support from the Ministry of Health facilities to community-level health services. By the mid-1990s, CRS was focusing most of our energy on the areas most in need of assistance, the three northern regions.
The decade that followed witnessed yet another shift in CRS Ghana from food-supported programs to an increased emphasis on technical support and capacity building for our partners.