Ghana eradicates Guinea worm

2011-07-28 21:19

Accra - Jimmy Carter watched in horror as the long worm emerged from the breast of a woman in remote northern Ghana. That was in the 1980s. The former US president dedicated himself to eradicating the sickness and estimated it would take 10 years.

On Thursday, after 23 years of hard work and a major setback, Ghana finally declared victory.

"Ghana's triumph over Guinea worm disease serves as a reminder to the world and the remaining endemic countries that the greatest challenges can be overcome with hard work, political commitment, and the support of the international community," Carter said in a statement from the Atlanta-based Carter Centre.

At a celebration in Ghana's northern Tamale city, Vice President John Mahama announced that the West African nation has completed 14 consecutive months reporting no indigenous cases, indicating that the cycle of Guinea worm disease, or dracunculiasis, has been broken.

Ghana had 180 000 cases in 1989. By 2005, it had only a few hundred. Then, in January 2007, more than 1 000 new cases were reported in northern Ghana, in what Carter called "our worst disappointment" of the international campaign.

Guinea worm eggs lodge in a microscopic water flea, which people swallow with untreated water, usually at sources that they share with animals and where they bathe, wash clothes and collect drinking water.

So the disease attacks the poorest of the poor. The eggs live in abdominal tissue where they hatch and mate. A year later, the worm starts emerging, most often through legs and feet and measuring a metre and more, in a process so painful it can stop people from working for three months.

To relieve the fiery pain, victims put a foot in water, and the worm emerges and breeds. Just one worm can discharge a million eggs. So hundreds of people can use a dam safely and one child can ruin the communal effort.

No treatment

Guinea worm does not kill and there is no treatment or vaccine. Instead, water filters are distributed, a mild pesticide kills the flea carrier in water holes, and villagers are counselled to drink only safe water and stay out of infected water.

Carter said Ghana's setback was caused by putting too little emphasis on these simple steps, and instead focusing on providing expensive water systems.

Aid workers had built dams in low-lying flat areas to catch rainwater, dams that in the dry season became breeding reservoirs for Guinea worm.

Carter came to Ghana in early 2007 to help redouble efforts in the country, declaring he was determined "to outlive the last Guinea worm." He is now 86.

Guinea worm disease remains endemic in newly independent South Sudan and in pockets of Mali and Ethiopia. Chad also recently experienced an isolated outbreak.

Some 804 cases have been reported in those countries this year. When Carter began his campaign, there were more than 3.5 million cases in 23 countries in Africa and Asia.

"The last cases of any disease are the most challenging to wipe out," said Dr Donald Hopkins, vice president of health at the Carter Centre, who attended Ghana's celebration.

Guinea worm could be the first parasitic disease eradicated, and only the second disease to be eradicated in the world, since smallpox in 1979.


- AP
Read more on:    jimmy carter  |  ghana  |  west africa  |  health
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!
Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

HOUSES FOR SALE IN Paarl

Houses R 2 690 000

HOUSES FOR SALE IN Hermanus

Houses R 2 680 000

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

At last you are able to see the light. You are able to break through obstacles in an innovative and original way. Visualisation is...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.