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25.01.2007 Health

Conflict remains setback to Guinea worm eradication

By Nana Obeng-Danquah
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Health experts in Ghana agree that conflict is a major hindrance to the fight against and eradication of guinea worm in the country.

Even though there are other factors, this explains why the northern part of the country is most endemic of the disease, often described as a forgotten disease.

In recognition of this fact, the National Co-ordinator of the Guinea Worm Eradication programme is based in Tamale.

Against this backdrop, George Amofa, Director of Public Health of the Ministry of Health, has appealed to those who take delight in beating war drums whenever there is misunderstanding to have a change of heart.

The consequences of conflict, he noted, draws progress backward particularly in the area of fighting against guinea worm.

The Public Health Director disclosed this at a Guinea Worm workshop organised for media practitioners in Accra yesterday.

He disclosed that since the eradication programme began a few years ago, the infection rate has decreased annually hitting the lowest infection rate in 2005.

According to him, one major problem with conflict is that it brings general insecurity to an area, which makes it difficult for volunteers working on the eradication programme to carry out their educational outreach activities.

Again, in times of conflict any gains chalked are rapidly reversed.

The Health Ministry maintains that the most effective means to eradicate guinea worm is the provision of safe potable water to the communities.

Dr Amofa pointed out that Guinea Worm is not only a health issue but also a developmental one, and wondered why health personnel are at the receiving end of the brunt of the public's anger instead of the Works, Housing and Water Resources Ministry which is supposed to be in the forefront in the provision of safe potable water to the people.

He, however, expressed concern that even where potable water has been provided, the socio-cultural environment in which the people find themselves does not augur well. He stressed that all hands must be on deck if the nation is to meet the global target of eradicating the disease in 2009.

Dr Amofa entreated the media not to dwell on the statistics of infected people but rather help to educate the people on what is required of them to prevent and control the disease.

Currently, Ghana is ranked second in Africa, with 4,130 Guinea Worm victims.

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