Fighting Disease: Yemen
Eradicating Guinea Worm Disease
Current Status: Transmission stopped, 1997
Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication: 2004
Current Guinea worm case reports >
In a land of arid mountains, seasonal rains, and scarce water sources, waterborne illnesses present a particular threat to the Yemeni people. However, in 1997, Yemen finally defeated Guinea worm disease, when it reported zero cases for 12 consecutive months.
Although Guinea worm was known to be endemic to Yemen in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the lack of travel to remote affected villages led to the belief that the disease had disappeared. But when the Guinea Worm Eradication Program was established in Yemen in 1995, a reward system for reporting cases was created, and a Yemeni member of Parliament was the first to report incidence of the disease.
The Carter Center and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided technical support for a thorough case detection and elimination effort, which included house-to-house and marketplace searches for cases of the disease. Tools used to stop Guinea worm disease transmission included health education, distribution of nylon water filters, and treatment of contaminated water sources with the safe larvicide, ABATE® (donated by BASF). Supervised by the program, trained village volunteers carried out monthly surveillance and interventions. Through these efforts, Yemen stopped transmission of Guinea worm disease in 1997, and in 2004, the World Health Organization certified the nation as Guinea-worm-free.
Yemen was honored at a special ceremony at The Carter Center in Atlanta in 2000 for having stopped Guinea worm disease transmission.
Trachoma Control Program
In 1998, The Carter Center began applying experience and knowledge gained from its Guinea Worm Eradication Program to help Yemen and partner organizations control trachoma. Surveys found that trachoma was the third leading cause of blindness in the nation and was prevalent among approximately 12 percent of all children younger than 5 years old.
Program interventions against trachoma focused on health education to promote better hygiene, improvements in environmental sanitation, and the distribution of antibiotics in endemic communities, coordinated with surgery performed by other partner organizations. Obstacles to controlling trachoma in Yemen included lack of recognition of blindness as a health priority, budgetary constraints, and low government health coverage.
The Carter Center's work in Yemen ended in 2003.