Stakeholders are expressing concerns about the increase in Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) in lakeside communities within the Volta Basin following the Akosombo Dam spillage. The spillage has led to a surge in cases of schistosomiasis, a river-borne tropical disease also known as bilharzia, which can cause infertility and maternal morbidity.
Mr. Ben Sackey, the Director of the Environmental and Sustainable Development Department of the Volta River Authority (VRA), highlighted schistosomiasis as a major challenge associated with the construction of the Akosombo Dam. He stated that the disease is now prevalent in over 400 communities across five regions sharing the Volta Basin.
The spillage brought along aquatic weeds that harbor snails carrying schisto worms, contributing to the spread of the disease. Mr. Sackey mentioned that the VRA has initiated a baseline study to assess the extent of the infection's spread, conducted in partnership with the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS).
Efforts are underway to provide sanitary facilities, including drinking water, for affected communities. Mass drug administration is being carried out in lakeside communities, and projects such as the dredging of the lower Volta are planned to address the issue. Additionally, partnerships with institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) aim to develop economic value for aquatic weeds.
Professor Morhe, Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UHAS, emphasized the significant impact of schistosomiasis on women's health, including complications like infertility, preterm births, and increased risk of HIV. A study conducted in eleven communities in the Volta basin revealed a prevalence of 36.21% among surveyed women.
Dr. Alfred Kwesi Manyeh, a senior research fellow at UHAS leading the baseline study, highlighted challenges such as inadequate water supply, lack of social mobilization, and concerns about adverse drug reactions. The symposium held in Ho aimed to address the burden of schistosomiasis and related conditions in Ghana.
The rise in FGS underscores the importance of preventive efforts, including ending open defecation and urination to prevent water bodies from becoming infested with disease vectors.