A Foot in the Door

Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health
Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health

If all goes well, the World Health Organisation will soon certify Nigeria as a guinea-worm free country

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun. 10, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

NIGERIA is on the verge of being certified by the World Health Organisation, WHO, as a guinea worm-free country. The International Commission for the Certification of Guinea-worm Eradication is expected to visit Nigeria in June this year to assess the surveillance and reporting efforts, as well as verify and confirm the claim of the absence of indigenous guinea worm transmission, prior to certification.

Babatunde Tokoya, assistant national coordinator, National Steering Committee of the Nigeria Guinea-worm Eradication Programme, NIGEP, said the federal government, with support from the WHO, and other partners, had built an information network from the national level through the states, local governments down to the villages. He said Nigeria was able to eradicate the disease, which in 1988, had affected 653, 562 persons in 5,879 villages, adding that the last case of guinea worm was in 2008 in Enugu State.

Tokoya explained that the federal government is ready to reward every report of authentic guinea worm cases in any part of the country with N25, 000. He said the reward would sensitise the entire populace about the importance of guinea worm certification. “Any suspected case of guinea worm disease is to be reported to the nearest health facility and if it is confirmed, the reporter will be given a cash reward of N25,000. All suspected cases can be reported through a toll free line,” Tokoya said.

He noted that between 2009 to date, there have been 545 rumoured cases of guinea worm out of which 21 were recorded between January and March 2013. “Before Nigeria can be certified guinea worm free, we must meet four distinct criteria. We must have at least 85 percent timely monthly reporting from all health facilities, public and private primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities in the 774 local governments across the country. Currently we have attained 57 percent. We must have at least 80 percent monthly reporting from all the 774 local government areas and at least 80 percent of the general public in rural and urban areas knowing about the reward. Moreover, all health facility staff at national, State, local government and primary health level must know about the case definition of guinea-worm and the appropriate response to the cases. Currently, we have attained 32 percent. All guinea worm disease rumours must be investigated immediately, within 24 hours of receiving the verbal or written report.”

The Yakubu Gowon Centre, which had been involved in the fight against guinea-worm in Nigeria since 1999. The centre said that the country has witnessed a drastic reduction in guinea worm cases from 13,419 cases in 1999 to 1,460 cases in year 2003. Moreover, as a result of increased mobilisation and advocacy to government at all levels, there has been an increase in the provision of safe water sources to guinea worm endemic communities. This has resulted to a noticeable reduction in the number of guinea worm cases to less than 500 cases between January to December 2004.

As at May 1, 2013, the Commission had certified 192 countries and territories, including 180 member states, as free of guinea worm transmission. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, the commission recommends to the WHO that formerly endemic countries should be declared free of transmission. Already, countries certified by the WHO as guinea worm free nations are Cameroon in 2007, Central African Republic in 2007, India in 2000, Pakistan in 1996, Senegal in 2004 and Yemen in 2004.

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