Ghana is second most endemic country with buruli ulcer worldwide
Mr Jim Niquete, Director of the Water in Africa Through Everyday Responsiveness (W.A.T.E.R), has said Ghana is currently the most endemic Buruli ulcer nation after neighbouring La Cote d’Ivoire.
He said the disease also known as Bairnsdale ulcer, Daintree ulcer, Mossman ulcer, and Searl ulcer is a chronic, indolent, necrotizing disease of the skin and soft tissue and though thought to have vanished from Ghana, it has reportedly shown its ugly face again in various communities in the country.
Buruli ulcer is the third most common mycobacterial disease of immunocompetent hosts, after tuberculosis and leprosy, and is caused by toxin-producing mycobacteria named Mycobacterium ulcerans.
Mr Niquete said according to recent statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO), out of 5,076 cases of Buruli ulcer recorded around the world, Africa tops the list of the most affected regions with Cote d’Ivoire leading the rate with a population of 2,679 patients and Ghana follows the trend with 1,048 recorded cases.
Consequently a nationwide campaign aimed at raising funds to fight the disease in Ghana has been launched in Accra.
Mr Niquete who did the launching, said the disease is transmitted through water-related sources and is also well known to be prevalent in countries with high vegetation and in the tropics.
He said in Ghana 37.8% of the recorded cases require surgery while 35.4% were children under age 15 and the Ashanti Region, which has highest forest resource in the country also has the highest number of reported cases of the disease.
Mr Niquette said “All these statistics were derived through passive surveillance, which means the number of serious cases which are unknown in the country could be larger than the number we have on hand.”
He said due to the social stigma attached to the disease, most victims tend to hide the disease and rather resort to traditional means of treatment due to financial constraints or ignorance.
He expressed concern about the inadequate facilities and other resources across the country adding, that there are only six treatment facilities for the disease countrywide.
Mr Niquette said considering the soaring number of patients, the country needs millions of dollars a year to help eradicate the disease nationwide.
He said funds raised through the campaign would be given to the government through the Ghana Health Service (GHS) for onward distribution to the worst affected districts to help carry out the eradication process.
The process, according to Mr Niquette, involves providing resources and structures to help carry out an extensive research and to determine the actual number of cases in the country, as well as to purchase the necessary sophisticated equipments to diagnose and treat the disease for thousands of patients.
The Deputy Director General of the GHS, Dr George Amofa, commended W.A.T.E.R for the bold initiative and pledged government’s support to help stamp out Buruli ulcer in the country.
He described the disease as having placed a challenging strain on the country due to its social implications adding that people affected by the disease are usually shunned by the society and this stigmatization causes child victims to stop going to school whiles the females are often denied the privilege of getting married.
The Deputy Director General called on Development Partners and corporate organizations to support the campaign by donating to a worthy cause.