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Profile: Dr. Andrew Seidu Korkor

Profile: Dr. Andrew Seidu Korkor

When Dr Andrew Seidu Korkor describes the debilitating pain caused by Guinea worm disease and how it devastates communities, he's not just making a professional observation. For this national manager of Ghana's Guinea Worm Eradication Program it's personal.

"I had Guinea worm disease," Korkor explains. "My mother, my father, brothers, sisters, uncles-everybody had Guinea worm in the village we lived in. As a child with the disease I couldn't go to school. The adults couldn't go to work or to farm."

Korkor made up those missed days of school in his small rural village of Seripe in Northern Ghana and went on to attend medical school at the University of Ghana. But Guinea worm, a disease that has plagued humans since biblical times, never left his mind. "I actually did my thesis on Guinea worm," he admits.

After practicing medicine and working in public health, in 2000 he became the director of Ghana's Guinea Worm Eradication Program to "make sure Ghana got rid of Guinea worm disease."

Ghana has. In July 2011, Ghana's Ministry of Health announced it had seen no cases of Guinea worm for more than a year. Only a few nations remain in the Carter Center-led effort to make Guinea worm the second disease-after smallpox-to be eradicated from earth. When The Carter Center began the campaign against the disease in 1986 there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 21 countries. Today, there are fewer than 1,800 cases in the world. In Ghana there are none.

After the country's first national Guinea worm case search, in 1989 Ghana reported about 180,000 cases. At first, elimination efforts progressed rapidly in Ghana, but ethnic conflicts and other setbacks in the mid-90s nearly derailed the program. By 2004, Korkor's team regained momentum. Says Korkor, "We have been able to move from over 3,000 cases to zero in under five years." That's no small feat. Korkor credits The Carter Center with providing logistics, human resources, and technical assistance that has kept Ghana's eradication effort on track. He also recognizes the immense contribution of a corps of community-based volunteers, trained by The Carter Center and the national program, who circulated through villages offering Guinea worm education and treatment.

But much of the credit goes to the man who suffered with, overcame, then conquered the disease. Korkor believes the end of Guinea worm means better educational, economic, and agricultural opportunities for his fellow Ghanaians. He is humble about his contribution to Ghana's victory over Guinea worm, but happy the war is over.

"I'm very proud to be involved in the eradication of that disease," says Korkor. Today when he talks to his family and friends from his boyhood village, they speak of Guinea worm as a disease of the past.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Congratulates People of Ghana for Halting Guinea Worm Disease Transmission >>

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