Countries commit to scaling-up IDSR to tackle guinea worm disease in Africa
Experts from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda convened in Entebbe, Uganda, to identify and discuss opportunities to strengthen cross-border interventions for guinea worm disease eradication. Participants mapped a joint action plan for 2018 to strengthen surveillance, communication and coordination for guinea worm disease eradication. They further charted a strategy to strengthen cross-border surveillance among refugees to prevent the disease from spilling over to refugee host-communities. This is in line with the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO-AFRO) campaign- “final push”, to stop transmission of guinea worm disease in Africa.
The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, in her opening remarks, highlighted that “We need to scale up community-based surveillance and Social Behavioral Change Communication to tackle guinea worm disease.”
She further indicated that the Government of Uganda is committed to collaborating with Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to attain guinea worm eradication. She urged the other countries to emulate Uganda’s approach saying, “I request countries to integrate guinea worm disease surveillance into their Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response frameworks.”
WHO Uganda Country Office’s Dr Fatunmbi Bayo applauded Uganda for eradicating guinea worm disease. He said, “Only four countries remain endemic in the African region, two of these in East Africa (Ethiopia and South Sudan). With increased effort, the world is close to attaining the Guinea Worm Eradication goal.”
Dr Bayo indicated his awareness of the continuous challenges faced by the global program on guinea worm disease eradication including limited resources and insecurity but called on countries to remain committed to the guinea worm disease eradication goal.
The World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions calling for the eradication of guinea worm disease have seen the annual incidence of guinea worm disease drop from, 883,640 cases in 1989 to 25 cases in 2016 in Africa. Forty countries in Africa were certified for achieving uninterrupted indigenous transmission, while three others are awaiting certification. Four countries including Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan remain endemic, even though Mali has not registered a case since 2015.
Movement of refugees from endemic countries including Mali and South Sudan poses a threat to the maintenance of guinea worm free status in certified countries. WHO has called on countries to intensify coordination and collaboration to strengthen surveillance along common borders. Enhanced cross-border surveillance is critical now more than ever, to accelerate the push of Guinea worm out of the East African region and out of Africa.
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