By Julius N. Uma
January 17, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan remains the most Guinea Worm affected country in the world, with 521 cases out of the 542 reported worldwide last year, the Carter Center said on Thursday.
- Jimmy Carter (c) with the other panelist during the media roundtable, January 17, 2013 (Deborah Hakes/Carter Center)
The provisional Guinea worm totals for 2012, released by the US-based center, founded by former US President, Jimmy Carter, also indicates a 99% reduction of 10, 7 and 4 other cases in Chad, Mali and Ethiopia respectively.
President Carter, while addressing a visual press conference for a selected journalists on Thursday, described Guinea Worm as “terrible” disease-affecting humans, which needs eradication from communities.
“Having only 542 Guinea Worm cases worldwide in 2012 is a testament to the hard work of the endemic and formerly endemic communities, supported by The Carter Center and our partners,” said Carter, who has actively been involved in the fight against the disease since 1986.
“The collateral impact of this campaign is immense; it empowers people in some of the world’s most neglected communities to protect themselves from a terrible disease and to believe in the possibility of a brighter future,” he added.
Guinea worm disease, also known as dracunculiasis, is a parasitic infection caused by the nematode (roundworm) parasite Dracunculus medenisis. The disease, according to health officials, is contracted when people ingest drinking water from stagnant sources containing copepods (commonly referred to as water fleas) that harbour infective Guinea worm larvae.
Symptoms usually appear about one year after infection, with an adult
worm up to 100cms in length emerging from the body - usually from the
feet or legs - causing a painful blister and burning sensation on the
skin. However, infected patients often develop a secondary bacterial infection of the
wound, incapacitating them for weeks, even months
Last year’s statistics also show a tremendous decline in Guinea Worm cases worldwide, given that there were 3.5 million cases of Guinea worm in 21 countries in Africa and Asia, when The Carter Center began leading the international campaign nearly three decades back.
“According to projections from the Center for Global Development, the campaign has averted more than 80 million cases worldwide since 1986,” a statement from the Carter Center reads in part.
In South Sudan, Kapeota East County in Eastern Equatoria State is reportedly the worst affected region, with over 80% of the 521 reported cases. Others include remote locations south of Pibor County in Jonglei state and areas west of the River Nile.
The former US President, however, said efforts to eradicate the disease in South Sudan, will continue, despite notable cases of insecurity, adding the Carter Center achieved a 50% reduction in Guinea Worm cases between 2011 and 2012.
“One case of Guinea Worm in a village, if not addressed can spread to other parts of the community,” Carter noted.
Dr. Donald Hopkins, the Carter Center Vice President for Health Programs, said, “In any eradication effort, the final few cases are always the hardest and most expensive to wipe out, but we cannot stop until the job is done.”
He however said educating communities about Guinea worm prevention is vital to stopping the spread of the disease.
"If we leave even one case behind, this terrible disease can return to inflict immense suffering on some of the world’s most neglected people and communities," he added.
The Center, for more than a quarter century, has reportedly remained on the forefront of eradicating and eliminating neglected tropical diseases worldwide. To reaffirm its commitment, the Center was one of more than 60 signatories to the January 2012 London Declaration, a multi-organisational pledge to eliminate or control 10 diseases worldwide by 2020.