Wiping Out Guinea Worm Disease

  • Learning to use pipe filters in Ghana.

    Nuru Ziblim (right), a Guinea worm health volunteer in Ghana, teaches children how to use straw-like pipe filters, allowing them to drink water from any source without fear of contracting the waterborne parasite. In 2015, Ghana was certified by the World Health Organization as Guinea worm-free. (Photo: The Carter Center/ L. Gubb)

In 1986, Guinea worm disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, thanks to the work of The Carter Center and its partners — including the countries themselves — the incidence of Guinea worm has been reduced by more than 99.99 percent.

In 2016, only three countries — Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan  reported a total of 25 human cases of Guinea worm disease, and Mali reported no cases at all for the first time in the history of its program. 

At a Glance: 2016 Reported Cases of Guinea Worm Disease in Endemic Countries

Chad: 16*

South Sudan: 6*

Ethiopia: 3*

Mali: 0*

Map of Africa with Chad Highlighted
Map of Africa with South Sudan Highlighted
Map of Africa with Ethiopia Highlighted
Map of Africa with Mali Highlighted

*Note: These numbers are considered provisional until certified.

As The Carter Center closes in on making Guinea worm the second-ever human disease to be eradicated, and as case numbers dwindle, experts project that the campaign is nearing the finish line. However, challenges still remain. With any eradication effort, the last few cases are the most difficult and expensive to wipe out, but with the continued dedication of ministries of health, community health workers, and international partners, the suffering caused by Guinea worm disease will soon be wiped out.

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What's the Difference Between Eradication, Elimination, and Control?

Eradication: Reduction of the worldwide incidence of a disease to zero so no further control measures are needed.

Elimination: Transmission of a disease is halted in a single country, continent, or other limited geographic area, rather than global eradication.

ControlReduced incidence or prevalence of a disease or condition; control measures are still required.

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