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27.02.2009 Health

Northern Region out to eradicate guinea worm

The Northern Region made a giant step towards guinea worm eradication in the region by reducing the number of cases from 3,237 in 2007 to 479 last year.

The feat represents a drop of more than 99.5 per cent of the 101,524 recorded in 1989.

This is in spite of the fact that 43 out of the 46 districts that recorded guinea worm cases in the country last year were from the Northern Region.

This, therefore, implies that Ghana is almost at the point of ending the prevalence of the disease, since the Northern Region, which is the highest guinea worm endemic area in the country, is beginning to record fewer and fewer cases.

The Northern Regional Manager of the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (GWEP), Mr Gilbert Dery, disclosed this to the Daily Graphic in an interview.

He attributed the reduction in the number of cases to some measures undertaken by the programme over the years.

"We increased our surveillance, embarked on evidence-based education, ensured the continuous free treatment of guinea worm patients and also increased our collaboration with other agencies.

"Apart from these, we partnered with other institutions to provide safe drinking water for communities that initially lacked potable water and also distributed more water purification materials and chemicals," he stated.

Through surveillance, Mr Derry explained, the programme was able to identify persons who were developing the disease early enough to take them to health facilities for treatment.

He also said through a 20 million euros combined support from the European Union, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of Ghana, the programme was able to supervise the provision of water and sanitation facilities for the nine most endemic districts in the region.

Those districts, he said, were Savelugu/Nanton, Tolon/Kumbungu, Gushiegu, Karaga, East Gonja, Kpandai, Yendi, Zabzugu/Tatale and Nanumba North.

Earlier at the opening of the 2008 health performance review meeting for the Northern Region in Tamale, the Northern Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Akwasi Twumasi, said the reduction in the prevalence of guinea worm in the region was a very significant development for the country.

"This is a new record in the guinea worm eradication programme in the whole world. We are now at the level of 0.03 per cent of guinea worm cases compared to the 1989 case load," he stated.

Dr Twumasi said the achievement was as a result of the untiring efforts of the various teams of health personnel and donor agencies who collaborated over the past year to fight the disease.