By Ola Ajayi
IBADANâ€”FORMER Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) declared WednesdayÂ that the country, through President Jimmy Carter Centre had fought guinea worm to a standstill.
He said over 650,000 guinea worm cases were discovered in 1987 but as at the moment the country has zero case of the spread of the disease.
Specifically, he commended the Oyo State Governor, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala for putting an end to the spread of the epidemic by the meritorious effort he put in it with his State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Owolabi Babalola.
â€œBy last year, we confirmed that there was no more guinea worm in Enugu and there is no more guinea worm throughout Nigeria. Oyo State has no guinea worm since 2006.
â€œFrom the 16,000-17,000 they had in 1987-88 to 300 they had in 1998-1999. But in 2006, the state government reduced it to zero level. It is a great achievement by any standard to the local government. I say congratulations to the governor and to the communities as well for achieving this milestoneâ€, he commended.
The former Head of State who was on a thank you visit to the state said he was challenged by the humanitarian efforts of the former President of the United States of America, President Jimmy Carter who left his country and pumped in huge resources to eradicate the spread of the epidemic in Nigeria.
General Gowon who was flanked by the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja added that he was very shocked when he saw many people that were suffering from the disease.
The disease, he confessed, was a challenge to him and it opened his eyes to the responsibility of leadership â€œthat you need to look beyond your immediate environment but go very far to know the needs of your peopleâ€.
â€œI came into it in 1990 when I was invited by the president and I asked the question, was that disease around during my time and I didnâ€™t do anything about it. I think the answer is, it could not have been at that time because if it existed, we could have dealt with it the way we were doing things at that timeâ€, the former Head of State noted.
He explained further that after the country got an award for being guinea worm free, it was shocking to him that Enugu, which had, at one time in 2006 reported zero case, was still battling with the disease.
His words: â€œWhen we went to Atlanta, Nigeria and I were given an award by Jimmy Carter Centre. When we came back, we received this shocking news that about 50 cases were found in Enugu and part of the airports. They are the areas where you do not expect any cases of guinea worm because they were supplied with pipe borne water. We thought there should be no problem thereâ€.
â€œBut, my goodness, it was a shock to us. With the help of the Carter Centre, state government, local government chairman, we put our efforts together to make sure that the disease was curtailed thereâ€, he stated.