In the Northern region of Ghana, the Guinea worm is highly endemic. It is a parasitic infection largely attributable to drinking unsafe water. Growing up to a metre in length, a Guinea worm lives in the body for a year and emerges throughan unbearably painful blister in the skin. The worm can be extracted only a few centimetres every day and causes intense pain for weeks. Some victims are left crippled. Communities suffer because victims cannot farm, attend school or care for families. Children under 16 are disproportionately affected. Fourteen-year-old Mbama had the parasite in her leg and was forced to miss school as she could not walk. “I was using a stick to walk, or to crawl,” she says. After she was helped by the clinic in her village she could attend school again. Mbama’s village now has a new borehole that provides clean water.
With EU support, since 2007 the UN has worked with partners to eradicate the Guinea worm through providing water supply systems, hygiene programmes and improved sanitation in nine districts in northern Ghana. While access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities is vital to eradicate the Guinea worm, to be effective, it must be accompanied by increasing awareness on prevention and the practice of safe hygiene.
Since 2007, over 55,700 people gained access to safe drinking water. Among other things, the drilling of a total of 97 boreholes, of which 64 were installed with hand pumps, helped communities. Construction is underway for 44 more boreholes. The programme targets 40,000 children and aims to benefit 1 million people by 2011. With combined efforts of partners, cases of Guinea worm in Ghana dropped from 4,136 in 2006 to 242 in 2009.