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River Blindness Not Recorded In Ghana Over 20 years   
 
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09-Apr-2014  
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Nana Okra Abankwa, Chief Economics Officer of National Oncho Control Programme (NOCP), on Wednesday said no case of Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) has been recorded in Ghana over the past 20 years.

He said NOCP, which was started some decades ago by the government with funding from World Health Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation and United Nations Development Programme, was a great success.

Nana Abankwa, who was speaking in an interview with Ghana News Agency in Accra, said the Programme is under the Ministry of Finance and is being financed by funds from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Onchocerciasis is caused by tiny threadlike worms (microfilarieae) produced from the clusters of adult worms (Onchocerca volvulus), found in nodules under the victim’s skin.

He said the disease is transmitted by a little humpbacked blackfly (Simulium damnosum), explaining that only female fly bites since it requires a blood meal to develop its eggs.

Nana Abankwa observed that the black flies are found along the banks of fast flowing rivers in Northern, Upper East, Upper West and parts of Brong Ahafo Region.

He said in the past many farmers living along the banks of these fast flowing rivers had to abandon their villages and farms due to the disease, adding that apart from the blindness, the victims had visible nodules and are often disfigured by the depigmentation.

Nana Abankwa lauded former President Jerry John Rawlings for embarking on a massive effort during his tenure to open up the “overseas areas” of the three northern regions, which were then highly infested with the black flies.

He said this singular effort by the former President helped in curbing the disease and also opened up the overseas areas for socio-economic development.

He said the disease was held in check under the programme by continuous spraying of the banks of the rivers for 15 years to kill the blackflies and thereby disrupted the transmission chain.

He said although the blackflies still exist, they no longer transmit the disease but their bites still cause itching and other forms of irritations for their victims.

Nana Abankwa said annually on the onset of the rainy season his outfit in collaboration with the district directorates of the Ministry of Health gave out the drug Mectizan to the people living in blackflies infested areas as a preventive measure against River Blindness.

He said the programme organises public education for the farmers in River Blindness endemic areas such as Bawku East, Bawku West, Garu-Tempani, Bulsa South, Bulsa North, Wa East, Wa West, Mamprusi West, and Gonja West to convince them to go back to their farming activities.

Nana Abankwa said the last donor support for the programme was received over three years ago, adding that since then they had been depending on government’s budgetary allocation for their activities, which is not forthcoming.

He therefore called for donor support to ensure the sustainability of the gains of the Programme.
 
 
Source: GNA
 
 

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