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NIGERIA INCHES DECISIVELY TOWARDS GUINEA WORM ELIMINATION

"Interruption of dracunculiasis (commonly known as guinea worm disease) -- appears to have occurred in Nigeria" a team of independent international expert evaluators said in a report issued in February in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

The report was authored by a team which had just concluded an evaluation of the Nigerian Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (NIGEP), at the request of the Nigerian Federal Government.

The 13- member team of evaluators comprised seven international evaluators including from the US Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and WHO, complemented by six national experts on guinea worm disease (GWD).

Following the last reported indigenous guinea worm case in November 2008, the Nigerian Government requested WHO to carry out an evaluation.

The objectives of the evaluation were to:

After an in-depth review of NIGEP's strategies and progress as reported by the Programme's coordinator, the evaluators broke up into seven teams which visited 15 of the country's 36 states, 40 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 136 villages.

Out of the 50 villages identified by NIGEP as being at-risk and under active surveillance, Fifteen of the villages were selected for visits. Field reviews were carried out using standardized questionnaires, and review of records and reports. Based on the assessment, the evaluation team reached five conclusions:

The evaluators made a number of recommendations, including strengthening and extending the IDSR mechanism to at least 80% of health facilities; regular review of IDSR reports by State and Local Government GWD focal persons and their IDSR counterparts; the transformation of the IDSR system into an electronic data based system; the institution of public communication in local languages and of cash rewards for reporting GWD cases.

Other recommendations include providing physical access by healthcare workers to vulnerable communities; placing such communities under active surveillance; prioritizing and accelerating access to safe drinking water to 50 at-risk villages in 2010 (targeting the eight villages with no safe water supply and the 28 others with inadequate water supply) , and budgeting at the three tiers of government to ensure the achievement of pre-certification requirements.

"We believe that Guinea worm transmission has been interrupted in our land and we are confident that Nigeria will be struck off the list of Guinea-worm-endemic countries in a short while", commented a former Minister of Health of Nigeria, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin.