Nomadic Groups Pose Challenge for Fighting Guinea Worm in Southern Sudan

The lives of an estimated 70 percent of the people living in Southern Sudan are intrinsically entwined with their cattle.

Sudan is an arid country with distinct dry and rainy seasons. When water becomes scarce during the prolonged dry period, pastoralists migrate their livestock to graze in wetter areas, often near the edge of the Nile River. Along the journey, they may traverse territories belonging to others, which can spark conflicts over grazing rights or other issues. Before the rainy season returns, the nomadic herdsmen lead their families and animals back to their base villages.

The mass population movements pose an additional challenge in the push to eliminate Guinea worm disease from Sudan, the main—and potentially the last—bastion of the parasitic water-borne disease.

Many of the villages that become dry are also endemic for Guinea worm disease. Thus, many of the victims of this painful affliction are among those clans that come together and move in elusive camp formations during the dry season, making Guinea worm case surveillance even more challenging.  Patients on the move also make it harder for the program to care for their wounds and ensure new water sources are not being contaminated.

The Southern Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program (SSGWEP), in partnership with The Carter Center, is striving to rid Guinea worm disease from the region, which included about 85 percent of the world's remaining 3,190 cases in 2009.

Mr. Makoy Samuel Yibi, SSGWEP director, states, "There's no way we can succeed in interrupting transmission of Guinea worm disease without taking into account the movements of the cattle, and thus of villagers, between their permanent locations and the cattle camps."

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