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Campaign to Eradicate Guinea Worm Disease Reports Lowest Case Levels to Date, President Carter Observes Recent Successes During Special Ceremony


In Nigeria: Meryl Bailey

In Atlanta: Emily Staub

Lire La campagne d'éradication de la dracunculose signale les niveaux de cas les plus faibles jamais atteints, Le Président Carter fait l'éloge des réussites récentes lors d'une cérémonie spéciale >

ABUJA … The countdown to complete elimination of Guinea worm disease is ticking closer to zero. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter helped the global Guinea Worm Eradication Program celebrate a major milestone today by honoring four new countries that ended transmission of Guinea worm disease in 2007 at a special ceremony. Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Togo join 11 others in reporting an end to the parasitic infection. These successes crown a triumphant year for the international eradication campaign as experts record fewer than 10,000 cases–the lowest number ever reported for the 22-year effort. Only five endemic countries remain, each must contain every Guinea worm case before global elimination can be achieved.

World leaders of the campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease Mali President Amadou Toumani Touré and Nigeria former Head of State General (Dr.) Yakubu Gowon joined President Carter on Tuesday, April 2, 2008, in Abuja, Nigeria to celebrate these achievements. Guinea worm, a debilitating parasitic disease that causes severe pain and economic hardship and once plagued millions of people in Africa and Asia.

"The achievement celebrated tonight results from the diligence of government officials, the dedicated efforts of health workers and volunteers, and the vigilance of villagers to contain every case, " said President Carter, Carter Center founder and 2002 Nobel laureate at a special awards ceremony and reception for the countries. "With the historic success of the Guinea worm campaign this year comes my renewed hope that Rosalynn and I will see this horrible affliction relegated to the history books within our lifetimes."

During the ceremony, President Carter, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Dr. Donald R. Hopkins, vice president for health programs at The Carter Center, and Dr. Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, director for the Center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program, presented representatives of Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Togo with a hand-carved sculpture inscribed with the year in which the country stopped transmission of the disease. These four countries join Benin, Mauritania, Uganda, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Senegal, and Yemen in reaching this major milestone. Only five endemic countries remain, all in Africa, with all expected to stop transmission by the end of the decade.

The global campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease has reduced the number of cases worldwide by more than 99.7 percent: from an estimated 3.5 million in 1986 to 9,587* cases reported in 2007. In addition to the four countries that stopped transmission in 2006, several others reached significant goals: Niger reported only 11* cases remaining in 2007 and Nigeria reported only 73* cases in 2007, a considerable achievement for the country that was once the most Guinea worm-endemic in the world. Both countries are expected to stop transmission this year. Guinea worm disease is set to be the second disease in human history to be eradicated and the first without a medicine or a vaccine.

Guinea worm disease is an ancient parasitic infection that affects people living in remote, poverty-stricken communities. The disease is contracted when people consume water contaminated with infective larvae. After a year, the 1-meter-long worm slowly emerges from the body through an agonizingly painful blister it creates in the skin. Children suffering from the disease cannot attend school because they, like other victims, are incapacitated for an average of two months after a worm has begun to emerge. Communities suffer food shortages when their residents are unable to farm.

Honored Countries

Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Togo are the latest countries to eradicate Guinea worm disease by successfully halting its transmission for 12 consecutive months or more. Thanks to the persistent supervision of village-based surveillance, health education, provision of free nylon filters, ABATE® larvicide treatment (donated by BASF Corporation), and targeted provision of safe drinking water, the countries achieved this historic success in 2007.

In 1990 the government of Burkina Faso established its National Guinea Worm Eradication Program and conducted a nationwide village by village search for Guinea worm cases the same year, detecting 42,187 cases in 2,626 villages. The country's program faced major obstacles on its way to eradication, primarily the inaccessibility of certain endemic villages due to poor road conditions during the rainy season--the peak transmission season for Guinea worm disease in the country. The country reported its last case of Guinea worm disease in Tondia-Kangue village in November 2006.

When Cote d'Ivoire conducted its first national case search in 1991, there were a recorded 12,690 cases in 503 Ivoirian villages. Cote d'Ivoire has suffered distractions as a result of enduring political instability after the civil war began in September 2002. Despite the continuing threat of civil war, in September 2006 the program reported its last indigenous case from the village of Lendoukro, thanks to systematic interventions against transmission of the disease.

The Ethiopia Ministry of Health established its National Dracunculiasis Eradication Program in 1993 with assistance from The Carter Center and launched a village by village nationwide search during which 1,120 cases were found in 99 villages in the southwest part of the country. Since 1996, to ensure that every case is detected and reported in Ethiopia, a reward system was established in all endemic areas. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many, the country reported its last case in Gambella Town, Gambella Region, in June 2006.

Encompassing six different geographic regions and home to 37 different ethnic groups, Togo is a diverse nation with many health concerns that are universally shared by its people. In 1992, Togo's Guinea Worm Eradication Program conducted its first national case search discovering 8,179 cases in 584 villages. During its 15-year eradication effort, the program utilized a wide array of health education strategies, good surveillance, consistent supervision, and other interventions. These efforts yielded success in December 2006 when the program declared its last case in the village of Kpégno Agoromé.

All Photos:  Carter Center/George Esiri
(Click to enlarge)

On April 2, the three world leaders in the Guinea Worm Eradication Campaign --Nigeria former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon (left), Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure (center), and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (right) -- meet together for the first time to celebrate the latest four countries to stop transmission of the disease and the lowest case numbers reported worldwide since the campaign's inception in 1986.

(Click to enlarge)

Burkina Faso Ambassador to Nigeria Dramane Yameogo (right) receives an award on behalf of his country for stopping transmission of Guinea worm disease from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

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President and Mrs. Carter pose with the evening's honoraries. From left to right: Dr. Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, director of the Carter Center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program; Dr. John Hardman, president and CEO of The Carter Center; Ethiopia Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Suleiman Dedefo Woshe; Cote d'Ivoire First Counsellor to the Embassy of Cote d'Ivoire in Nigeria Mr. Soro Kapieletien; President Carter; Mrs. Carter; Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure; Mr. Makoy Samuel Yibi Logora, director of the Southern Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program; Madame Suzanne Aho, former Togo Minister of Health; Burkina Faso Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Dramane Yamego; Nigeria Minister of Health and Labor Dr. Mohammed Hassan Nawal; Carter Center Vice President for Health Program Dr. Donald Hopkins.

President Carter Honors Four Countries During Special Awards Ceremony Highlighting Progress Against Guinea Worm Disease>>

Mali's President Touré, Southern Sudan Program Director Logora Honored with The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Award >>
Learn more about the Carter Center's Guinea Worm Program >>

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