Eradicating Guinea worm disease

February 2005 to January 2010

Guinea worm disease, caused by a water-borne parasite, is a painful and debilitating illness and can seriously impact the long-term health of those who contract it. In Ghana, one of the countries where the disease is most prevalent, the national government and its development partners have embarked on a massive drive to raise funds and undertake activities to eradicate the disease.

Approach

Over five years the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation engaged in the Guinea Worm Eradication Program, a collaborative effort with partners including the Ghana Health Service and The Carter Center. The Guinea Worm Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee facilitated partners’ interventions and other contributions toward the effort in Ghana. To ensure optimum results, the project was leveraged by the Integrated Guinea Worm Eradication Program, which pursues eradication of the disease by improving the safety of the water supply and by achieving changes in sanitation and hygiene behaviors in Ghana’s Northern Region.

In addition, the Foundation supports safe water through the West Africa Water Initiative (WAWI) and has awarded more than $3.3 million in grants aimed at eradicating Guinea worm disease in areas of Ghana that fall outside of the WAWI-targeted region.

Key Projects and Partners

UNICEF’s Guinea worm eradication efforts focus on drilling and repairing water boreholes, constructing rainwater tanks, and helping to ensure that Guinea worm eradication remains a priority on Ghana’s political agenda. To expedite the provision of safe water, Desert Research Institute is lending technical expertise, recommending locations for boreholes based on hydrogeological studies, maintaining a spatially referenced database, and assisting with the development of water quality assurance protocols.

The Carter Center is responsible for surveillance, hygiene education, community mobilization, the application of larvicide to water sources, and advocacy. President Carter’s February 2007 trip to Ghana brought increased political attention to the Guinea worm disease issue; as result, Ghana’s president appointed a special advisor for Guinea worm eradication, declared Guinea worm disease a national emergency, and pledged $1 million to its ministries to combat Guinea worm disease.

Results

  • Approximately 150,000 people in Guinea worm-endemic communities in Ghana have gained access to safe water through the drilling of new boreholes and the rehabilitation of existing damaged boreholes.
  • More than 100 Water and Sanitation Committees in Guinea worm-endemic communities have been formed and trained to manage the operation and maintenance of the water systems.
  • The incidence of Guinea worm disease has been reduced from more than 5,000 cases in 2003 to 242 cases in 2009.
  • High-level government and political officials have become involved in advocacy work to garner support to eradicate the disease.

Resources