Indegineous transmission of guinea worm broken in Ghana
ACCRA, Ghana, 03 August 2011 - The Vice President of Ghana H.E. John Dramani Mahama officially announced the interruption of the indigenous transmission of Guinea worm in Ghana at the Annual Mid-year Review Meeting of the Ghana Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (GGWEP) in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region.
The GGWEP was established in 1989, at a time when the country recorded nearly 189,000 cases, and after two decades of intense eradication efforts the last case was recorded in May 2010. The country has not recorded a single case since May 2010 - a period of 14 months has since lapsed, the maximum gestation period for the disease.
Over the past decade, the debilitating disease has been mainly concentrated in the Northern Region of the country, a region consistently classified as one of the most vulnerable, and the disease has resulted in a further loss in productivity and the aggravation of poverty. Although the disease affected entire communities, children were particularly hard hit. In 2008 for example, 50 per cent of Guinea worm cases were found in school children aged between 6-15 years, and in 2009, 39 per cent of the cases were in this same age group. It is estimated that, on average, children with the disease lost between 30 to 60 school days due to the incapacitation caused by the illness.
H.E John Dramani Mahama, the Vice President of Ghana in making the announcement said, “We have come a long way. This is a feat we all take pride in but we should be cautious.” He also said, “At the height of the Guinea worm infection many children stayed out of school because they were infected with the Guinea worm.”
Key partners of the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme including UNICEF, WHO, European Commission, The Carter Centre, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Barclays Bank Ghana Ltd in separate statements, congratulated Ghana for this landmark achievement and highlighted the key role of strategic partnerships and inter-sectoral collaboration in breaking the transmission in the country. They also encouraged further collaboration for enhanced water supply coverage and sustainability, and disease surveillance systems, all critical elements to prevent any resurgence of the disease and key criteria for final certification. Dr. Iyabode Olusanmi Unicef Representative at the meeting said, “As we move into the pre-certification phase all partners should re-double their efforts to ensure that Ghana is finally certified to be free from Guinea worm, and that we have the infrastructure and systems in place to prevent any resurgence of the disease. It is achievable; other countries have done it and Ghana can do it as well.” Ghana will now formally enter the three year pre-certification phase in August 2011.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Julianna Lindsey, Chief of ACMA, UNICEF Ghana,
Offeibea Baddoo, Communication Officer, UNICEF Ghana