Ghana is on the verge of being declared a guinea worm free country by World Health Organisation (WHO) if it continues to record no incidence of the disease by the end of 2014. Ghana has not recorded a single case in three years which qualifies the country for certification by the WHO. In that regard, a cash reward of GH¢200 .00 would be awarded to anyone who reports a case of anything that looks like guinea worm to ensure that all suspected cases are reported for investigation. The certification process also requires that countries have in place a surveillance system that can detect and contain any guinea worm case and also investigate all such cases within 24 hours.
In a speech read on behalf of Ghana’s Minister of Health, Madam Sherry Ayittey, at the launch of the Guinea Worm week Celebration in Accra, she said government and partners had been fighting the burden of the disease at the initial count of 180,000 in 1989, until the last case was reported in the Northern Region in May 2010. The week-long celebration is on the theme: “The Final Push for Guinea Worm Certification in Ghana,” and aims to heighten awareness on the disease and the cash reward as Ghana approaches certification. The Health Minister said for more than 25 years the journey to eradicate the disease had seen ups and downs, with stagnation in progress for a decade in the 1990s and noted that Ghana broke transmission in 2010.
She said through Guinea worm eradication, Ghana has proven that the way forward for achieving development goals, and especially the health-related MDGs was through effective partnership and inter-sectoral collaboration. Dr Madgda Robalo, WHO representative, said the campaign for the eradication of the disease was set by the World Health Assembly resolution (WHA39.1) for eradication in the then 20 countries of which 16 were in WHO Africa Region including Ghana. She commended Ghana’s feat of breaking transmission saying, “another feat is about to be achieved after the eradication of small pox, but this time without vaccine and we wish to commend partners such as the Cater Centre, UNICEF, JICA, USAID, DFID and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many more who have contributed to this success.” Dr Robalo entreated Ghanaians, especially health workers, to be committed to the planned follow-up activities to get the message to rural areas in collaboration with Ministries, Municipal Assemblies, Departments and Agencies nationwide. UNICEF Representative, Susan Namondo Ngongi, said she had no doubt Ghana would achieve certification in July. ”UNICEF is proud to have made contributions to elimination of the disease particularly after the worst affected were children under 15 especially in the Northern region, where significant challenges to access safe drinking water exist.” Mr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, Programmes Manager of the Guinea worm Programme, said a lot of effort had gone into the elimination of the disease and commended partners who came on board to achieve the feat. Dr Sam Abugri, Chairman of the Guinea Worm Certification Committee, likened the elimination process to a World Cup tournament, saying Ghana had passed the group stages and in the finals to get the cup (Certification from WHO). He said he was optimistic that Ghana would pass the test.