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Health News of Friday, 15 February 2008

Source: GNA

Guinea worm cases on the decrease - MOH

Accra, Feb 15, GNA - Guinea worm cases were on steady decrease with

a monthly percentage reduction, Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. (Mrs) Gladys Ashitey said on Friday. She said cases were reduced from 4,136 in 2006 to 3,358 in 2007, representing 19 per cent, due to aggressive interventions to interrupt transmission by 2009.

Dr. Ashitey announced this at a media briefing in Accra and explained that a total of 167 cases were reported from October to December 2007 compared with 1,165 cases during the same period in 2006. "This 86 per cent reduction is good news indeed, because as you may recall, guinea worm has one year incubation period. We expect additional progress for the rest of 2008", she said. The briefing was organized by MOH in collaboration with its main partner in the fight against guinea worm in Ghana, the US-based Carter Centre and was attended by about 50 media practitioners to discuss the situation in the eradication effort as well as educate and solicit their support in the fight against the disease.

According to Dr. Ashitey only 67 cases have been reported in January this year as compared with 1,005 cases during that same month last while provisional report for February suggest positive trends. She said, another encouraging note is that outside the Northern Region (which has 96 per cent of all cases) only 121 (4) per cent of the disease have been reported from the remaining nine regions and most of those were imported from the Northern Region."

The three other endemic regions; Brong Ahafo, Volta and Upper West, she noted were poised to interrupt transmission by the end of this year.

The Ministry was encouraged by the fact that most of the actions taken with partners over the past two years were now being reflected in reducing numbers after the minimum one year wait period, she said. Last year, the Ministry doubled its budgetary commitment to Guinea worm eradication for 2007 to 10 billion cedis from five billion cedis in 2006.

The fund was made available immediately to support national programmes and interventions, including field operations such as free treatment of the disease and social mobilization and marketing programmes targeted at eradicating the disease at the earliest possible time.

Dr. Ashitey commended the partners in the fight against the disease, including UNICEF, JICA and Barclays Bank Ghana Limited who donated 68, 941 Ghana cedis out of its one percent profit before tax to the programme, as part of its social responsibility towards health, sports and education.

Dr Andrews Seidu Korkor, Programme Manager, Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (GWEP) who gave a briefing on the situation said current efforts show dramatic improvement over the situation, an indication that "by 2009, we shall reach the interrupt transmission level which will propel us to zero reduction by 2012".

He explained that it did not really matter Ghana's position /rating on the continent but rather how she makes effort to tackle the disease, adding that, "indeed we are doing very well in our fight against the disease by combining various efforts which include behavioural change, monitoring, education and marketing campaign".

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