The Carter Center, along with its partners - - Health and Development International (HDI), Hydro Polymers of Norsk Hydro, and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) - - has begun to blanket Sudan with nine million pipe filters - one for every man, woman, and child at risk of Guinea worm disease in Sudan.
"The Sudan Guinea Worm Pipe Filter Project is a positive story coming out of Africa; and unfortunately there are not enough of these," said former President Jimmy Carter. "We are grateful for this opportunity to aggressively attack Guinea worm in Sudan but also encouraged by the eagerness of all interested parties to participate in the fight to eradicate this debilitating disease."
Guinea worm disease cripples victims, leaving them unable to work, attend school, care for children, or harvest crops. Eradicating, or at the very least reducing, the incidence of Guinea worm in a country improves the status of life for all people. The Carter Center leads the global eradication effort against Guinea worm and has reduced worldwide incidence of the disease by 98 percent, from 3.2 million cases in 1986 to less than 75,000 in 2000. After smallpox, Guinea worm will be the second disease to be eliminated from the world.
Sudan is a great challenge to Guinea worm eradication, accounting for 73 percent of all reported cases. In 2000, The Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program (SGWEP) reported more than 54,000 new cases of Guinea worm disease (actual number of cases in Sudan is unknown) from 3,386 villages. The regions with the highest incidence of disease are in the South Sudanese territories - West and South Kordufan States in the Midwest and Southern Blue Nile, White Nile and Sinnar States in Central Sudan. Since November 2000, 10 Northern States have reported zero indigenous cases.
Use of the pipe filter prevents individuals from consuming contaminated water, thus interrupting disease transmission. The original pipe filter was an adaptation to the household nylon filter cloth; nomads would hold a piece of nylon over the end of a reed, like a straw, to drink. Today, a new version of the pipe filter is being distributed in Sudan and several other endemic Guinea worm countries.
The idea to produce and distribute pipe filters in Sudan was formulated in response to the epidemiology of the disease and the socio-political circumstances in Sudan: the continued conflict and the adverse effects on the population; the number of displaced and nomadic persons; the difficulties of accessing safe drinking water and delivering household filters to every endemic home; and the high resultant incidence of Guinea worm disease.
"An effort of this magnitude would not be possible without the strong collaboration and continued support of our partners from the community to the international level," said Dr. Donald Hopkins, associate executive director of The Carter Center's Health Programs.
The SGWEP was established through a unique collaboration, which also made the Sudan Pipe Filter Project possible. HDI, NCA, Hydro Polymers, and The Carter Center have joined forces with over 39 implementing agencies; 16 working groups, composed of over 1,300 people in Nairobi; and many supporting industries such as Vestergaard Frandsen, Metro Plastics, Meridian Aviation, Artage Communications, Rapid Response, and Golden Renovators. Together these groups are working to produce, assemble, and distribute nine million pipe filters throughout Sudan before the July rains when peak transmission season begins. More than six million pipe filters have been produced, 5.5 million of those have been distributed in the most endemic areas of Sudan for Guinea worm disease.
"The massive pipe filter project has the potential to greatly influence the number of new cases in Sudan in 2002. However, we must remain aware that it is the continued conflict that leaves many parts of the country inaccessible or difficult to reach, making the prevalence of disease and the actual number of Guinea worm cases unknown," said Dr. Hopkins.
"We feel that the Pipe Filter project is the quickest and most effective solution at this time to eradicate Guinea worm disease in Sudan, given the constraints of the environment and the cost's associated with providing clean water. This solution gives the Sudanese people a better quality of life without Guinea worm disease," said Mr Mikkel H. Storm, public affairs manager, Hydro Polymers, after his visit to Sudan.