BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
Ghana has been declared the first country to have achieved a zero case status in Guinea Worm eradication from 3,000 cases in a record time of three and half years, by Mr. Jim Niquette, formerly of the Carter Centre in Tamale, Ghana and now Director of Water in Africa Through Everyday Responsiveness (WATER).
Making the declaration at the just ended 22nd Mole Conference series at Busua near Takoradi in the Western Region, Mr. Niquette, who was full of praise for Ghana, for achieving that status, said “In 2007 we had 3,358, in 2008 we had 501; that’s 85% reduction and the largest reduction ever experienced by any country who ever attempted to eradicate Guinea Worm.”
“And it continued; we had 242 in 2009, eight in 2010 and zero in May 2011” he added, drawing applause from the over 150 participants from various agencies and organisations of Ghana’s water, sanitation and hygiene sector at the three-day conference held under the theme “Towards Decentralised WASH Services Delivery: Challenges and Lessons”.
Mr. Jim Niquette, who presented the status update on Ghana’s Guinea Worm eradication programme, divulged that although the average number of years it took for the first 16 countries to eradicate Guinea Worm from 3,000 cases to zero, was 8 1 /2 years, it was an unprecedented three and half years in the case of Ghana.
Attributing Ghana’s sterling performance in the eradication of Guinea Worm cases to the involvement of all stakeholders, he said; “The answer to that question is that we got everybody involved – it wasn’t just the Ghana Health Service and the Carter Centre – it was many many more people involved in the Northern Region, Upper West, Brong Ahafo ..”.
Mr. Niquette said the feat was achieved through assistance from the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, a host of other stakeholders including development partners and advocacy to attempt to raise US$ 35 million to provide water for 335 Guinea Worm endemic villages.
He also paid glowing tribute to the then Minister of Health, the late Major (r’td) Courage Quarshigah, through whose instrumentality a document that was prepared by Ghana Health Service and others was able to raise the money.
According to the former Carter Centre Director of Water for Africa, the team of stakeholders was able to raise US $5.3 million from just the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), adding “That is the kind of advocacy we are talking about that doesn’t cost money necessarily to work as a group together and what I think we learnt from that process is that when you collectively put people together, you create a plan, you create objectives, you create outputs you go out and you send it out with a lot of people’s names, you can accomplish plenty.”
He reiterated that it was as a result of the sector wide approach involving many stakeholders, that they were able to achieve so much in the eradication process using just five years, which no one had ever tried before. Some of the over 30 stakeholders who were mentioned as contributing to the success story were, Pro-Net, UNICEF, MCA, Rotary Club and the European Union.
As a result of Ghana’s current status, the Guinea Worm eradication programme will officially come to an end on August 31, 2011, Mr. Niquette disclosed.
Ghana will however have to maintain the zero case status for the next three years in order to qualify to be declared as having completely eradicated Guinea Worm.
The incidence of Guinea Worm in Ghana was initially 189,000 cases with the Northern Region alone having 79,000 at the onset of the eradication programme led by the Carter Centre.
The 22nd Mole Conference held from August 10 to August 13, 2011, was organised by the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) with support from Water Aid in Ghana, Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing (MWRWH), UNICEF, DANIDA, CIDA, IRC, World Bank, GWCL, Plan Ghana, CWSA, USAID, Poly Tank and RELIEF International.