General News of Fri, 16 Jan 20041

Ghana records more cases of guinea worm

Accra, Jan. 16, GNA- Guinea-worm cases increased from 3,622 in 2002 to 7,263 from January to November last year with the Northern, Brong Ahafo and Volta regions still registering the highest cases. The increase has placed Ghana second to last ahead of only the war-torn Sudan among the remaining 12 endemic countries.

Nigeria, which was second on the list has been able to reduce her cases making it a less endemic country.

Mrs Nwando S. Diallo, Resident Technical Advisor of the Global 2000, one of the donors to the Ghana Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (GGWEP), was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra, said nine of the 110 districts (eight in the Northern Region and one in the Volta Region) accounted for 88 per cent all Ghana's cases.

This makes the Northern Region and Southern Sudan the two highest endemic areas of guinea worm remaining in the world.

The nine districts are East Gonja, Nanumba, Tamale, Nkwanta, Yendi, Zabzugu-Tatale, West Gonja, Savelugu-Nanton and Gushegu-Karaga of which East Gonja ranked the highest in endemic.

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Explaining why Ghana was still recording increases in the disease, Mrs Diallo said it was because "we now have more personnel on the field to detect more cases, active surveillance at the village level, doing regular and proper supervision of the use of filters and infected persons not entering dams and rivers".

She noted that problems like funds, filters and manpower have been solved and they were no more excuses.

"The Ghana Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (GGWEP) has collaborated with the Ghana Red Cross Society to place 6,200 women volunteers in all the endemic villages in the top 15 endemic districts to help improve early detection, management and reporting of cases, she said.

Mrs Diallo explained that technical assistants, national service personnel and the United States Peace Corps volunteers have been added to the field workers to help strengthen supervisory activities at the district level.

"The increase in cases reported since 2002 are direct result of this additional manpower. The programme believes this is a critical first step in getting the programme back on track", she added. She said the programme has been conducting case researches in the top 15 endemic districts to ensure that no area escaped unnoticed with the disease.

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That has helped to identify more communities and would use the coming National Immunization Programme to carry out additional researches into the disease.

Mrs Diallo said even though 2003 October data showed a reduction in cases nationwide for the first time in over 15 months, the programme was still facing more serious challenges that must be overcome if Ghana was to eradicate the disease.

She said the provision of safe water to endemic communities has not kept pace with the application of other strategies for the interruption of transmission.

"By the end of 2002, only about 37 per cent of all endemic villages had at least one safe drinking water".

She said the Ministries of Health and Works and Housing have secured a grant of 1.5 million dollars for the provision of 180 bore holes in 110 endemic communities adding, development partners and water supply agencies were assisting to address the water problem.

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She called for the building of fences around contaminated dams found in the Volta, Brong Ahafo and Northern Regions where the disease was most prevalent to prevent further transmission.

Fencing such sources of water demands that we provide other alternatives by building more bore holes so that the people would not go round looking for water.

"These dams continue to remain a source of disease infection since it has been their only source of water. Communities with no safe water sources have become a serious threat to the programme and all efforts are being done to address it", she said.

Mrs Diallo noted that household and pipe filters have already been provided to endemic communities and mobile populations (hunters and farmers).

The Technical Advisor said the Global 2000 has been providing financial and technical assistance to the eradication programme. She explained that containment centres have also been set up where people voluntarily go to check and when found to have the disease, they would be detained and treated freely.

Global 2000 also provides abate (the chemical used for killing the worm) to the eradication programme.

Mrs Diallo suggested that for successful eradication, the programme should motivate volunteers, provide more transportation in terms of motorcycles and bicycles.

She urged government to remain alert because the transmission was mostly internal and all hands should be on deck to fight the disease, which to her was drawing the country back.

Source: GNA

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