Almost half of Ghana’s population, 12 million people is at risk of contracting the disease known as lymphatic filariasis, commonly called elephantiasis, Dr. Kofi Marfo of the Neglected Tropical Diseases unit of the Ghana Health Service has said Wednesday June 17, 2015 at a one-day workshop for journalists.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic infection that can result in altered lymphatic system and the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma.
The WHO estimates that, about 1.23 billion people in 58 countries worldwide are threatened by the disease, and over 120 million people are infected, with about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated by the disease.
Elephantiasis is one of the diseases classified as ‘negleted’ because these diseases are common in low-income populations.
Globally, there are 17 neglected tropical diseases that are prioritized by the WHO and they are common in 149 countries. These diseases, according to the WHO affect more than 1.4 billion people, including more than 500 children.
Dr. Marfo describes these diseases as “severely debilitating and disabling.”
The 17 diseases are: chagas disease, human Africa trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), and Leishmaniases caused by protozoa; Buruli ulcer, leprosy, trachoma and yaws, caused by bacteria. The others are Cysticercosis/Taeniasis, Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease); Echinococcosis; Foodborne trematodiases; lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness); schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases, which are caused by helminth; the rest are dengue and Chikungunya and Rabies which are caused by virus.
In Ghana when the mapping of elephantiasis was done in 1999, 49 districts out of the then 110 districts were identified as endemic and this corresponds to 98 of the 216 districts in the country, Joyce Aryee, NTDs Ambassador told journalists in Accra.
“Elephantiasis is endemic in all regions except the Ashanti and Volta Regions,” she said.
The entire country is endemic for intestinal worms, she said.
However, Dr. Marfo says Ghana is at the verge of being declared free of trachoma.
But there still remains more to be done to address these diseases in Ghana.
The Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme of the GHS requires funding to carry on with education, mass drug administration and morbidity control and management.
He told ghanabusinessnews.com in an interview that the total programme cost is GH¢9,951,707, but so far the funding available is GH¢5,805,736, leaving a funding gap of GH¢4,145,971.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi