Ghana uses instant smartphone messaging to accelerate dracunculiasis surveillance

Geneva, Switzerland
16 May 2014

The Ghana Guinea-Worm Eradication Programme (GGWEP) has turned to instant messaging service to increase awareness of the cash reward scheme for reporting cases of the disease.1

From 1 May 2014, GGWEP has launched a ‘fireball’ campaign to accelerate exchange of messages on WhatsApp – a popular smartphone application – through which users can send text or audio messages and images. Developers of the project plan to reach about 1000 per week. The service may also be extended to FaceBook and the broader social media platform.

There has been no transmission of guinea-worm disease in Ghana since May 2010 and the country is currently in the precertification phase. To be declared free of dracunculiasis, a country must report zero indigenous case of guinea-worm disease for at least 3 consecutive years – a phase now attained by Ghana.

An International Certification Team is due to visit Ghana on 7–23 July 2014 to verify the absence of transmission, assess the adequacy of the surveillance system, and review the records and investigations of rumoured cases before submitting its report to the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication.

From 1995 to the end of 2013, a total of 197 countries, territories and areas (belonging to 185 Member States) have been declared free of dracunculiasis transmission.

The latest countries to achieve this status in December 2013 include formerly endemic countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Niger) as well as countries with no history of the disease (Somalia and South Africa).

From January to April 2014, only 9 cases of guinea-worm cases have been reported to WHO.

The WHO Roadmap on neglected tropical disease targets global interruption of dracunculiasis transmission by 2015.

1The GGWEP offers a cash reward of GH¢ 200 00 (Ghana Cedis) to anyone reporting a worm emerging from any part of a human body to the nearest health facility or to a health worker.

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