Namibia, Angola strengthen disease surveillance

20 November 2019 | Health

Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are the worst affected by surveillance priority diseases.

This was said by a World Health Organisation (WHO) health specialist at Ongwediva yesterday at a cross-border meeting between Namibia and Angola to strengthen surveillance for Guinea worm disease, hepatitis E and other surveillance priority diseases.

Andrew Seidu Korkor is a health specialist in neglected tropical diseases.

He said five years ago the world committed itself to control, eliminate or eradicate ten of these diseases by 2020.

Neglected tropical diseases are a diverse group of communicable diseases in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries, affecting more than one billion people. They cost developing economies billions of dollars every year, Korkor said.

Angola and Namibia share similar epidemiological, environmental and socio-democratic characteristics, with extensive cross-border movement between the two countries.

These characteristics are very conducive for the importation of diseases between the two countries.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula said Namibia and Angola are signatories to the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005, which mandate member states to strengthen capacities for health security.

“This can only materialise through cross-border collaboration, and it is noted with concern that there is an increase in cross-border and international travel.

“There is also rapid population growth, leading to high population density and unplanned urbanisation, creating conditions that are conducive for the spread of diseases,” Shangula said.

He said this week's meeting will discuss Guinea worm disease and other diseases like polio, which are earmarked for eradication.

“Namibia was certified free of Guinea worm disease in 2000. With the ongoing transmission in Angola, especially in a province so close by in Angola, Namibia cannot sit aloof,” Korkor said.

What is GWD?

According to the WHO, Guinea worm disease is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through drinking stagnant water that has been contaminated with a tiny parasite-infected flea. Once inside the body, the larvae can mature into worms that grow up to one metre in length.

The parasite migrates through the victim's subcutaneous tissues causing severe pain, especially when it occurs in the joints.

The worm eventually emerges (from the feet in most of the cases), causing an intensely painful oedema, a blister and an ulcer, accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting.

When a person drinks contaminated water from ponds or shallow open wells, the cyclops is dissolved by the gastric acid of the stomach and the larvae are released and migrate through the intestinal wall. After 100 days, the male and female meet and mate. The male becomes encapsulated and dies in the tissues, while the female moves down the muscle planes.