News

    South Sudan Inches Closer to Eradicating Guinea Worm

    A guinea worm emerges from the leg of a south Sudanese girl in Juba. (File Photo)
    A guinea worm emerges from the leg of a south Sudanese girl in Juba. (File Photo)
    Andrew Green

    South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is on the brink of its first health-care success.  Cases of guinea worm have dropped dramatically in the past five years and there is hope that in 2012 transmission will be stopped completely.

    Transmission of the worm

    On the road to Terekeka, in central South Sudan, Makoy Samuel Yibi patrols passersby carrying water. Yibi is the director of South Sudan’s guinea worm eradication program. Of the four countries in the world that still have reported cases of guinea worm, South Sudan has the most, by far. Yibi is on a quest to stop transmission of the worm this year.

    Among other things, that means making sure people get their water from safe sources, like boreholes, because drinking water gathered from ponds can harbor guinea-worm larvae. Once consumed, the larvae can grow into yard-long worms that later emerge through the skin.

    The guinea worm infestation exploded in South Sudan during the country’s decades of independence conflict with the North. The fighting made the disease difficult to track and treat. By 2006, the year after a comprehensive peace agreement was signed, there were more than 20,000 guinea-worm cases in what is now South Sudan.

    Carter Center

    Yibi’s program, with extensive support from the Carter Center of the United States, has managed to drop that number to slightly more than 1,000 cases in 2011. The goal is to contain all of this year’s guinea worm patients and completely stop transmission.

    “In fact, people can argue that this is an unparalleled achievement in the eradication campaign, said Yibi. "At this stage now, we believe it is possible to get to zero. It is possible to interrupt transmission.”

    That will require successfully tracking every guinea-worm case this year. By the end of February, five cases had been reported in South Sudan. Those patients have to be contained or they risk contaminating their community’s water sources. It is not an easy task, because the pain of an emerging worm often drives people to soak the wound in water. That allows the worm to deposit new larvae.

    Agonizing worm

    Alphonse Busok knows how agonizing a guinea worm can be. Five years ago one emerged from a blister on the back of his foot.

    “I feel that my body is not good and the weather is very cold and my body is itchy," said Busok. "I did not do any work and I stayed at home. After that I saw the guinea worm getting out from my body.”

    Like Busok, many people who are afflicted with guinea worm are unable to work. Yibi says this can devastate families.

    “If somebody, for instance the breadwinner in the family, gets guinea worm, then you have a situation where somebody for an average of one month will not able to do any work," said Yibi. "And, of course, that has a serious connection with productivity.”

    No cure

    Although there is no cure for guinea worm, it is preventable. The Carter Center’s advisors travel the country’s endemic areas, encouraging people to use clean water sources or to use simple cloth filters to trap the larvae. Teams treat ponds with chemicals to kill the larvae.  And, they warn communities to keep people with guinea worm away from water to prevent contamination.

    The program has also set up containment centers to treat people who are infected. As the guinea worm slowly emerges, it is wrapped around a stick until it is completely out of the body. Yibi said the program was able to contain nearly 75 percent of the cases in 2011.
    He credits community involvement for the program’s success. Staff members rely on a network of volunteers to identify potential cases and start treatment. There are more than 8,000 volunteers across South Sudan’s endemic areas.

    The volunteers are also responsible for keeping the community vigilant. Even after the worm has disappeared, there is still a risk that it will re-emerge. Complete eradication will require people to continue to filter their drinking water or to get it from boreholes.

    Water safety

    Mary Bate fetches her family’s water. It has been more than two years since there was a case of guinea worm in her community. But she always gets her water from a borehole because she knows it is safer than the ponds that spring up when it rains.

    “We take our water from the borehole because it is clear and the water of the rainy season is not good and it has guinea worm,” she said.

    If the project successfully contains all of the cases that develop this year, there is the possibility that South Sudan could be guinea-worm free as early as next year. That could be the biggest health victory in this country’s short history.

    This story was reported for VOA in collaboration with the International Reporting Project.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora