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Guinea Worm Eradication in Ghana

Over the years, Ghana has been experiencing intermittent outbreaks of Guinea Worm infestation in some parts of the country.  Guinea worm is a parasitic disease caused by drinking contaminated water from ponds that are infected with infective larvae, popularly known as Guinea worm. The disease known medically as dracunculiasis, is extremely painful because of the blister and slow exit of a parasitic worm through the skin. The worm, sometimes one meter in length, leaves it’s victims temporarily crippled for months. A parasitic worm also causes the worm’s disease, and it impoverishes communities by crippling agricultural production and reducing   child school attendance.

Though Ghana has been trying its best ever since 1989 to eradicate the disease from the country, it has still not achieve that objective.  Over 96% of reported Guinea worm cases are mostly from the Northern region especially that of Savelegu Nanton District, whiles 4% could be found in the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern and Upper East regions.  These four regions have broken transmission but continue to report on imported cases originating mostly from the Northern region. Really, Ghana has tried its best to eradicate this agony when the country had its first national Guinea worm case search in 1989.  Nevertheless, in 2007, 3,358 cases were reported representing a 19% decrease over the 4,136 cases reported during 2006. With these figures, the second country infected with Guinea worm diseases, is rated as Ghana.

To support the nation to eradicate the disease, a former American President, Jimmy Carter, who is also the Founder of the Carter’s Centre based in the US, visited Ghana last year to find ways of eradicating the disease in this country. The Carter Centre, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other development partners, did massive work in the year 2007.Their efforts were friutful because 2008 records a reduction of 91% representing 153 cases. The Carter Centre is commending Ghana because great gains had been made against Guinea worm disease, ever since President Carter visited last year. This is indicative of the fact that thousands of Ghanaians have worked hard to make the reduction possible. 

 The Leader of the Carter Center, President Jimmy Carter, this year, has suggested to the government to find ways to stop the transmission and suggested that government should focus interventions on 180 villages with indigenous communities. President Carter said though he witnessed the horrific Savelegu Guinea worm outbreak in the Northern Ghana in 2007, he could now praise all Ghanaians for their good effort of the reduction of the disease. He commended Ghanaians for continued diligence, dedication, and political will. “Ghana could be finally reaching its long – sought goal, that is zero cases of Guinea worm diseases,” he disclosed.

He also urged the government to raise case containment rate as close to 100 percent as possible and to hold health and administrative staff accountable for their actions as well as improve surveillance in Guinea worm free areas of the country.

The key messages which people need to know and act on if guinea worm is to be eradicated are:

  • guinea worm comes from contaminated drinking water;
  • infected individuals should not be allowed to bathe in or contaminate water sources used for drinking.
  • guinea worm wounds should be cleaned and bamaged.
  • Drilling of pipe-boreholes for clean water is the solution.

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