|© UNICEF Ghana/2008|
|Ghanaian reggae artist Rocky Dawuni (left) joins the head of the European Commission delegation, Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi, and UNICEF Representative Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque during a two-day visit to northern Ghana.|
By Robin Giri
SAVELUGU-NANTON DISTRICT, Ghana, 7 July 2008 – Ghana is second on the list of Guinea worm endemic countries. Until recently, the Savelugu-Nanton district of northern Ghana had the highest number of reported cases of the disease, which is contracted when a person drinks water contaminated with infected larvae.
However, a shift in these statistics is now under way, following last year’s launch of a project that aims to provide water supply systems, hygiene programmes and improved sanitation in nine districts in northern Ghana.
An integrated approach
The project, an integrated approach to Guinea worm eradication in the Northern Region, is being supported by the European Commission and UNICEF.
“This time last year, we had more than 20 patients at a time at this centre alone,” said the manager of a Guinea worm containment centre in the Savelugu-Nanton district, Benni Lariba. “This year, we only have nine children at the centre and we hope that by next year there will be none.”
This project currently targets 40,000 children and aims to benefit 1 million people by 2011.
Growing up to a metre in length, a Guinea worm lives in the body for a year and emerges through an unbearably painful blister in the skin. The worm can be extracted only a few centimetres every day and causes intense pain for weeks while being removed. There is no cure for Guinea worm, only prevention.
Figures for this area reported in the first two months of 2008 year showed a dramatic decline, with only 80 reported cases of Guinea worm, as compared with approximately 1180 cases for the same period last year.
National figures, in turn, are showing a radical decline, as the Northern Region already accounts for more than 80 per cent of all Guinea worm cases in Ghana.
Two-day joint visit
The head of the European Commission Delegation in Ghana, Filiberto Ceriani Sebregondi, and UNICEF's Representative in Ghana, Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, recently made a two-day visit to the region to assess the ongoing project and also increase cooperation among partners and community members.
Mr. Sebregondi and Dr. Haque were accompanied by popular Ghanaian reggae artist Rocky Dawuni, who has been supporting UNICEF’s campaign for safe water.
“Ghana has made significant progress to eradicate the Guinea worm. These final cases can and must be eradicated and we must do so through a sustained, final push by communities, the government and international partners,” Mr. Sebregondi said at a concert by Mr. Dawuni at Tamale Sports Stadium in Tamale, Ghana.
Earlier, Mr. Sebregondi and Dr. Haque appeared on a popular morning programme on Ghana Television, speaking about the campaign to decrease the incidence of Guinea worm in Ghana.
“While access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities will definitely reduce Guinea worm cases and improve the health of children and women in the region,” said Dr. Haque, “this must go hand in hand with increased awareness on prevention methods and the practice of safe hygiene.”