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Eradication of guinea worm, a permanent solution

Wed, 25 Feb 2004 Source: GNA

The Guinea worm diseases is one of the menacing problems that inhibit the socio-economic development of Northern Ghana. This awful disease, which is water borne, has its roots deeply in the lack of potable water for the people in the Region.

Most communities in the Northern Region and northern parts of the Volta Region depend solely on dams and ponds as their sources of drinking water for themselves and their animals.

They have no access to wells and pipe-borne water. To them anything liquid to quench their thirst is enough to let them carry out their daily activities.

The reliance on unsafe water sources is at a great cost as they become afflicted with the guinea worm disease that renders them incapable of working and thereby aggravating the poverty situation in the area.


A 47 year-old victim of this terrible disease told the Ghana News Agency at Mpaha in the West Gonja District of Northern Region that he had 47 of the guinea worms removed from various parts of his body including his tongue and ears.

He said he considered himself dead when he contracted the disease until he was directed to go to the Carter Centre. He said he spent six months in that Guinea Worm Containment Centre at Mpaha seeking treatment, while his family remained in abject poverty since he was the only breadwinner.

His story is only one of the many tales of woe told by the people in guinea worm endemic areas of Northern Ghana.

Madam Ajara Adama, a resident of Dashei, a guinea worm endemic community in the East Gonja District, on the eve of Former US President Carter's visit to the area, described the disease as deadly, which needed much attention to eradicate.

The 48-year-old lady, who was recounting her experience to GNA, said she had never known the worm in her life until she travelled from Takoradi in the Western Region last year to Dashei to visit her parents when she contracted the disease.

She explained that she first experienced a blister in her left foot, which later developed into a big swell and that the situation made it very difficult for her to attend "nature's call".

She said at the time she was brought to the Centre, she had developed 27 points of the worm in her body including her back and buttocks and these gave her so much pain. She six worms were removed from her stomach.

She said she spent 56 days at the Centre and this disrupted her farming activities last year, which had left her in poverty.

Many of such tales were related to the GNA when the Agency accompanied Mr Emmanuel Kandoh, Regional Coordinator of the Guinea Worm Programme to tour endemic areas.

Current figures released to the GNA by the Carter Centre in Tamale indicated that the Northern Region recorded 4,273 cases in 2002 and 5,994 in 2003. The Volta Region recorded 305 cases in 2002 and 1,511 cases in 2003.

Notwithstanding, efforts being made to eradicate the disease bizarre figures are emerging from some Districts in the Northern Region. For instance the Tolon/Kumbungu District, which recorded 21 cases in January 2003 had for the same period this year recorded 121 cases. The figure for Savelugu/Nanton District shot up from nine in January 2003 to 80 in January 2004 while Saboba/Chereponi District that recorded zero last year January had four this year.

Bole District recorded zero against zero. Gushiegu/Karaga; Savelugu/Nanton; Yendi; Nanumba, East Mamprusi; West Mamprusi and East Gonja recorded slight decreases.

This could be that either more attention was being giving to some communities while ignoring others, or some of the communities abide by the rules of filtering their water before drinking or prevented infected people from wading in the ponds and dams that are used as sources of drinking water.


Mr Kandoh told the GNA that President Carter's visit and the efforts they are putting in place to ensure total eradication of the worm would have an impact next year.

He said officials of the programme were now going round communities in the districts particularly the endemic areas to disinfect their sources of water supply and educate the people on the need to filter their water before drinking.

Mr Elvin Hilyer, Technical Advisor on guinea worm at the Carter Centre in Tamale, expressed regret that some residents of Cheshe, a village near Tamale, did not allow their dam to be disinfected. He said the residents nearly beat personnel of the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme up when they were there to abate their dam. He, however, called for massive education in the local language both on radio and house-to-house campaign to let the people know the importance of abating.

As much as one sees his call as timely, one should not lose sight of the fact that there has to be consistent national policy to deal with the issue fundamentally and on a sustainable basis. This framework of national policy has to be home driven since foreign inflow of funds is not sustainable. This does not discount the need to source foreign aid. However, there has to be regular budgetary allocation both at national, regional and district levels tailored to make potable water available.

However, as President Carter observed the eradication of guinea does not depend on the sinking of boreholes and wells for every community but more significantly on educating the people not to drink untreated water. The foot soldiers engaged in the battle against guinea worm need to be equipped on sustainable basis rather than the current ad-hoc approach that depends on the generosity of foreigners.

A GNA feature by Caesar Abagali

Columnist: GNA
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