Fighting Disease: Yemen
Eradicating Guinea Worm Disease
Current Status: Transmission stopped, 1997
Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication: 2004
Dracunculiasis, or Guinea worm disease, is a preventable parasitic infection contracted when a person ingests drinking water from stagnant sources containing copepods (commonly referred to as water fleas) that harbor infective Guinea worm larvae. Inside a person's body, the larvae grow for a year, becoming thin threadlike worms up to 1 meter long. These worms create agonizingly painful blisters in the skin through which they slowly exit the body, preventing the victim from attending school, caring for children, or harvesting crops. Learn more about the historic Carter Center-led campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease >
In a land of arid mountains and seasonal rains, Yemen's water sources are scarce, and waterborne illnesses present a particular threat to the Yemeni people. However, in 1997, Yemen finally defeated a debilitating waterborne parasitic disease when it reported zero cases of Guinea worm disease for 12 consecutive months, which meant disease transmission had stopped. Read full text >
Trachoma Control Program
The leading cause of preventable blindness in the world, trachoma is an excruciating bacterial disease endemic to the poorest countries of the world. Although not typically a fatal disease, severe trachoma is disabling, debilitating, and eventually leads to blindness. The Carter Center supports trachoma control in six African countries in partnership with trachoma-endemic communities, ministries of health, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Pfizer Inc., and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Learn more about the Carter Center's Trachoma Control Program >
In late 1998, The Carter Center began to apply experience and knowledge gained from its Guinea Worm Eradication Program to work with Yemen and partner organizations to achieve control of trachoma. Surveys conducted in 1996 and 1999 in Yemen 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 focused on prevention of blinding trachoma through health education to promote better hygiene, improvements in environmental sanitation, and the distribution of antibiotics in endemic communities. These efforts were coordinated with surgery, performed by other partner organizations collaborating to correct advanced infections. Many obstacles existed to controlling trachoma in Yemen, including a lack of recognition of blindness as a health priority. Budgetary constraints and low government health coverage also complicated efforts to control the disease.
Yemen can continue to control trachoma, and it must. Hard work today will mean a brighter future for many who risk permanent loss of sight.
The Carter Center's work in Yemen ended in 2003.