No More A Guinea-Worm Nation

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Molyneux

Barring any unforeseen circumstance, Nigeria will be certified a guinea worm free country in December this year

|  By Anayo Ezugwu   |  Aug. 26, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

NIGERIA is on the threshold of receiving World Health Organisation, WHO, certification as a guinea worm free country by the International Commission for the Certification of Guinea-worm Eradication. The commission’s team which was on a three-week visit to the country, said that Nigeria would be formally declared a guinea worm free nation in December 2013 by the WHO.

David Molyneux, leader of the team, said that they visited 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, 16 local government areas, 136 villages and also interviewed 16,030 people and that the guinea worm pandemic has been eliminated in the country. Going by available records, the last case was recorded in 2008. He commended  the Nigerian government for fighting the disease to the level of elimination, despite the challenges associated with the control efforts, including the wide spread of the disease in different parts of the country.

“We’ll recommend to the International Commission for Disease Eradication that the risk of importation is minimal. The knowledge of the world system and associated reporting room provides further evidence that there have been an absence of confirmed cases since 2008. Based on those comments, the national report, which states that Nigeria is free of the transmission, the confirmation by this statement is valid given the sample size of the visit. The ICT will recommend to the international commission that Nigeria will be declared free of guinea worm. Despite this recommendation that Nigeria is free of guinea worm transmission, it must be viewed in the global context of global eradication. And that means that conditions for stopping or reducing the amount of effort in guinea worm should be maintained; we must continue the surveillance,” he said.

Chukwu
Chukwu

Molyneux pointed out that neighbouring countries like Chad and Niger were still battling the endemic and warned the federal government against the risk of migration from such country. He, however, stressed the need for continued health sensitisation, cross-border coordination as well as awareness. He urged the federal government to improve on rural water supply in order to sustain the health of the people, advising residents in areas where there was no clean water to boil their water before drinking.

Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health, said that all the recommendations by the team were noted and assured that government would adhere to them as it looked forward to the official declaration in December. He lauded the work of the team in the certification process and the contributions of all international partners in the eradication of guinea worm in Nigeria. He promised that other diseases like polio would one day be eradicated in the country, adding that Nigeria would maintain the template of guinea worm eradication. Meanwhile, the Jimmy Carter Foundation and the Yakubu Gowon Foundation pledged their continued support to Nigeria in the fight against guinea worm and other diseases.

Ifeoma Anagbolu, coordinator, Nigeria Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, NIGEP, said NIGEP had ensured the execution of needed programmes to include case management, provision of potable water for communities in the country; dissemination of requisite information and sustenance of zero-case since 2008. The list, according to her, includes programme activities surveillance for guinea worm disease, communication for behavioural impact, including health education, advocacy and social mobilisation, safe water provision, maintenance and use.

She noted that NIGEP was established in 1988 in tandem with global call for the eradication of guinea worm disease and in line with the recommendation of International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade to combat water and sanitation-related diseases, particularly in developing countries. She said that NIGEP works in partnership with the government of Nigeria, United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Yakubu Gowon Centre, The Carter Centre and the endemic communities. Others are government of Japan and United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.

“Guinea worm disease surveys were conducted during the epidemiological years through June 1987 to July 1988 until 1991. In 1987 to 1988, we had 653,620 cases reported. The number of cases declined until 2008 when Nigeria reported the last 38 cases. The 38 cases occurred in five villages. But, at the inception of NIGEP, we had 5,879 villages affected. Altogether, we had 393 local government areas affected by Guinea worm disease in the country between 1987 and 1988. For the precertification period, a year after the case was reported, Nigeria adopted minimum pre-certification target. This means that all health staff must know case existence for Guinea worm disease and appropriate response to a suspected case or rumour.

“All guinea worm disease cases or rumour must be reported within 24 hours, regardless of how the rumours were received. At least, 80 percent of the public must be aware of the message on Guinea worm disease and the cash reward for guinea worm disease reporting. This means that any suspected case must be reported to the nearest health facilities of health workers and that there is a cash reward of N25, 000 on any confirmed case. From 2009 to 2010, we have received several rumour reports which were investigated and found not to be guinea worm disease. Altogether, we have 680 rumour reports,” she said.

The struggle began over two decades ago against the syndrome which has left over a million people affected till date in the country. In 1988, according to the WHO, the first national search recorded 653,620 cases in almost all states in Nigeria, the highest worldwide. Nigeria has, however, not recorded a case since 2008, given both local and international interventions that have spanned over two decades.

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