Poverty and disease: effect of guinea worm disease on school attendance in the Tolon-Kumbungu District of the Northern Region of Ghana

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This thesis titled “Poverty and disease: Effect of Guinea Worm disease on school attendance in the Tolon/Kumbungu District”, is an attempt at measuring the socio-economic impact of Guinea Worm disease on endemic communities (measured in terms of school attendance). This is with the understanding that Guinea Worm disease is a result of poverty and can consequently trap its victims in a vicious cycle of poverty and ill-health. Background studies across the world reveal that the incidence of Guinea Worm disease had decreased by 93% in the year 2000 from 3.6 million cases in 1986. The reduction could be largely attributed to the interest developed by Jimmy Carter (former president of United States of America) and The Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation towards eradicating Guinea Worm disease within the nearest possible time. Methodologies used in this study varied from utilization of formal questionnaires, focus group discussion and the employment of scoring and ranking tools. Heads of twenty (20) basic schools were interviewed comprising 10 primary schools and 10 Junior high schools, also focus group discussions were carried out with an average of ten (10) students in five (5) Junior high schools. At the community level, 10 endemic communities were selected to participate in focus group discussions whiles 38 patients infected with Guinea Worm disease between January and April 2008 (as presented by the district health directorate) were interviewed using formal questionnaires. Results from data collected have shown that Guinea Worm disease is still a problem in the district and has had a negative effect on the productivity of residents. It also reveals that majority of those infected are within school going age (5 to 18 years) and that students/pupils are absent from school due to direct infection or infection of a relative. More so, 50% of schools surveyed revealed that a number of pupils/students never returned after they had been infected by the disease. Recommendations based on the study include (amongst others) the need for properly equipped Guinea Worm disease containment centres and the inclusion of education on Guinea Worm disease into the curricula of schools in endemic areas. There is also the need to work at alleviating poverty as the only way of permanently eradicating Guinea Worm disease and a clarion call for intense vigilance at the critical end of the eradication process.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Geography and Rural Development, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Arts, 2010