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Fight Against Guinea Worm Disease: President Carter, Ghana Ministry of Health Issue Urgent Call to Action



Dr. Kwesi Owusu, Creative Storm

Phone: +233 21 775072 or +233 244 715602


Emily Staub, The Carter Center

International Cell Phone:

Dial: 011-480-768-2500 then: 8816-4144-3423

Atlanta Office Tel: +1-404-420-5126


SAVELUGU, GHANA... Today, amid the scorching heat of peak dry season, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited the parched community of Savelugu to meet with dozens of Guinea worm disease victims in an effort to bring global attention to Ghana's growing Guinea worm epidemic caused by inadequate water supply in the country.

Representatives from the Ghana government, organizational partners, and high-level Ghanaian health officials, including Regional Minister Honorable Mustapha Ali Iddris and Deputy Region Minister Honorable Issah Ketekewu, joined President Carter on the field trip hosted by the Director General of Ghana Health Services Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa.

"Ghana must do more to raise public awareness and ensure a sense of urgency to finally put an end to the social injustice of Guinea worm, an unnecessary and preventable disease," said President Carter. "The country has the wealth and ability to eradicate Guinea worm disease. But there needs to be more commitment of officials and health staff at all levels to keep people with Guinea worm disease from contaminating sources of drinking water."

President Carter traveled to Ghana, the country that inspired him 20 years ago to lead an international coalition to eradicate Guinea worm disease, a debilitating parasitic infection that traps its victims in a cycle of poverty and pain for generations. During his visit, President Carter met with Ghana President John Agyekum Kufuor to discuss efforts to eliminate the disease from his country. Ghana remains the most Guinea worm-endemic country in West Africa and second in the world only to war-torn Sudan.

Led by President Carter, The Carter Center has spearheaded a coalition of organizations in the global campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease since 1986. The global Guinea worm eradication campaign is now fighting the last fraction of 1 percent of Guinea worm disease remaining in the world. Ghana accounts for nearly 17 percent of the approximately 25,000 cases reported in 2006. Almost all of the others can be found in war-torn Sudan.

During a program review in Accra a year ago, Ghana set a deadline to stop transmission of Guinea worm disease by March 2007 to correspond with the country's Golden Jubilee. The Ministry of Health through its Guinea Worm Eradication Program has stepped up efforts to combat the disease, including announcing free treatment in all public hospitals and clinics for people suffering from Guinea worm disease, replacing non-performing supervisors, opening 10 case containment centers, initiating a public awareness campaign, providing more funding for the national eradication effort, distributing pipe filters, and providing sources of safe drinking water.

While Ghana swiftly reduced Guinea worm cases after the program started in 1987, surges in cases in the mid and late 1990s left Ghana ranking as the highest endemic country in the world in 2004, surpassing even Sudan, which had been fighting a civil war for more than 20 years. By the end of 2006, Ghana reported 4,132 cases. Nearly half of affected Ghanaians are children younger than age 15.

"There is no excuse for the continued suffering caused by Guinea worm disease," said National Guinea Worm Program Coordinator Dr. Andrew Seidu Korkor. "It is up to all of us including individuals, communities, health workers, and policy makers to commit to the challenge and take immediate action to change the lives of our children who suffer from this disease. We are running out of chances to give the next generation an opportunity for a bright and healthy future free of Guinea worm disease."

Background on Guinea Worm Disease

Guinea worm disease impoverishes a community by crippling agricultural production and reducing school attendance. Guinea worm is a parasitic, water-borne disease that is contracted when people consume stagnant water contaminated with microscopic fleas carrying infective larvae. Inside a human's abdomen, the larvae mature and grow, some as long as a meter. After a year, the worm slowly emerges through a painful blister in the skin.

Some worms can take up to two months to be completely removed. There is no vaccine for Guinea worm disease. The emerging worm often causes fever, nausea, secondary infection, and burning pain, earning the parasite one of its nicknames, "the fiery serpent." The burning sensation caused by the emerging worm leads many victims to immerse their affected limbs in water to seek relief, but the cycle of infection begins again when the worm releases more larvae into the water.


Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will call international attention to health needs among impoverished communities in Ghana, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, when he leads a delegation of senior-level Carter Center officials to Africa on Feb. 6-16.

The Carter Center celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2007. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped alleviate suffering and improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

The Carter Center:  At Work in Ghana >>

Learn more about the Carter Center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program >>

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