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10.02.2009 Health

NGO steps up war on Buruli ulcer

By gna

With growing awareness that Buruli Ulcer can be treated when it is detected early, an NGO has stepped up the war on the disease in the country, urging health professionals and workers to update themselves with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) current treatment recommendations.

Health professionals should also assist in the dissemination of the information to affected families and communities, Health Foundation Ghana, the NGO, has stressed in an interview with the GNA.

Buruli ulcer, categorised as one of the “neglected tropical diseases”, is a debilitating disease that sees patients endure a lot of suffering, ending up with some disability upon healing or in some cases death.

It can be found in several countries such as Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

“As Ghana’s cold statistics continue to worry the authorities, Health Foundation Ghana is taking the lead in efforts in its eradication because it we believe there is a lot of hope for patients,” the NGO said.

“Buruli ulcer has been neglected for too long….People need not die from Buruli ulcer when these disabilities and deaths can be prevented,” the Foundation said.

Some 32 districts in six of the country’s 10 regions cumulatively reported 3,033 cases since 2005, according to statistics from the National Buruli Ulcer Control Programme (NBUCP).

It said in 2007, there were 625 new cases and in 2008, the number of new case increased to 901.

“(This is) an indication that perhaps interventions to address problems of underreporting and late interventions are working,” Mrs Lynda Arthur, Country Director of Health Foundation Ghana, said after carrying out a weeklong workshop on early case detection and referrals of the disease for community health volunteers, among others at Jakobu in the Amansie Central District of the Ashanti Region.

“It is important to note that 70 per cent of all reported cases in Ghana are children below the age of 15 years,” she said.

The workshop carried out with the support of a Spanish NGO Fontilles, trained 40 community health workers, 80 community health volunteers, 80 teachers and 40 hospital health workers for one week.

It also undertook public education in selected communities in the District and provided medical and theatre support to the District Referral Centre.

Mrs Arthur commended the multi-sectoral approach adopted in the control of the disease in Amansie Central, saying “health problems must be tackled by all, not only health professionals and workers because each of us has an important role to play.”

She added: “Buruli ulcer has been neglected for too long. We need to support the efforts of the National Buruli Ulcer Control Programme in the years to come because with Buruli Ulcer Disease, there is so much hope.”

Mrs Arthur said the NGO was also battling other foes – myths and stigma - that surround the disease.

There are also the issues of lack of awareness of the current WHO recommended treatment, which is proving to be effective, poor access to health facilities and attitude of some health personnel.

“We need to intensify our efforts to dispel the myths and stigma that are associated with (the disease) and provide accurate information about the disease to encourage patients to report early for treatment to reduce the financial burden of this disease,” Mrs Arthur said.