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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Visits Last Stronghold of Guinea Worm Disease in Southern Sudan

Emily Staub, The Carter Center; Sudan mobile: +0903281177
Atlanta Office: +1 404-420-5107

Paige Rohe, The Carter Center; Sudan Mobile: +249903281176
Atlanta Office: +1 404-420-5129

Carter Joins Press Conference with Southern Sudan Ministry of Health and Southern Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program, Hails Major Progress Against Parasite and Urges Intensified Control Efforts

JUBA...In the dusty and remote village of Molujore, Terekeka County, Southern Sudan, food shortages are common, insecurity lingers, and survival is a daily struggle. Yet, important progress is being made in the effort to wipe out Guinea worm disease, resulting in the community being singled out for a visit from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Central Equatoria State Governor Clement Wani Konga, and Commissioner Clement Maring Samuel today to urge intensification of efforts to wipe out the waterborne parasitic infection during the next transmission season beginning in April.

"Every citizen, whether they live in a Guinea worm-endemic community or not should be committed to Guinea worm eradication in Sudan," said President Carter who later participated in a post-village visit press conference at the Assembly Hall in Juba with representatives from the Ministry of Health. "The Carter Center will remain committed to supporting the aspirations of the Sudanese people to wipe out Guinea worm and to promote peace and health in the future."

President Carter was joined by a Carter Center health delegation including Dr. John Hardman, Carter Center president and CEO, Dr. Donald Hopkins, vice president of Health Programs, and Richard Blum, a member of the Carter Center's Board of Trustees.

A waterborne parasitic infection acquired by drinking contaminated water, Guinea worm disease (or dracunculiasis) incubates in a person for about a year until one or more worms as long as 1 meter exit the body painfully and slowly from blisters in the skin. 

With worldwide case reductions down by more than 99 percent from approximately 3.5 million in 1986 to fewer than 3,500 in 2009, Guinea worm disease is poised to become the next disease after smallpox to be eradicated from Earth and the first to be wiped out without the use of a vaccine or medicine. Sudan is considered the last frontier for the international Guinea worm disease eradication effort—in partnership with The Carter Center—because of the long civil war and continuing insecurities in the region that had made many endemic areas inaccessible to health workers.

"It is impossible to say how great it will be for the people of Southern Sudan for Guinea worm disease to be eradicated," said Government of Southern Sudan Minister of Health Dr. Joseph Manytuil Wejang. "Without eradication, thousands of people in our poorest communities will be incapacitated each year. The potential to improve the social and economic conditions is limitless."

Since 1989, President Carter has worked tirelessly to help reduce human suffering in Sudan caused by conflict, disease, and malnutrition. In 1995, he secured one of the longest humanitarian cease-fires ever achieved to jump-start Sudan's campaign against Guinea worm disease, pilot the effort against river blindness, and provide an opportunity for children to be immunized against polio and other illnesses. Many of the disease prevention methods put in place during the unprecedented six months of relative stability were maintained by local communities and health workers, even after the recurrence of violence. 

Terekeka was one of the counties that benefitted from this cease-fire, receiving Guinea worm health education and other preventive measures for the first time. However, conflict in the county constrained further interventions for a decade until the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 paved the way for the establishment of a full-scale Guinea Worm Eradication Program in the region.

Many villages in Terekeka were able to quickly break Guinea worm disease transmission shortly after the program was established, using the simple tools of health education and cloth and pipe water filters to strain out the infective larvae. Food shortages in the following years presented another complication for the eradication effort, as people from endemic villages migrated to non-endemic villages in search of food, resulting in imported cases.

The mood in Molujore today was hopeful as a chorus of dozens of men and women sang songs honoring President Carter and teaching Guinea worm prevention. The hard work of village volunteers and local field officers was recognized at the home of volunteer Viviana Kolong, 30, who takes a break from working her fields during the hottest hours of the day to promote Guinea worm prevention. The delegation watched Kolong as she deftly coaxed an emerging worm out of a young farmer's foot, cleaned the wound, and wrapped it in clean bandages. After her work was completed free of charge, Kolong packed up her treatment kit and headed toward the festivities, which were continued long after the Carter Center delegation left to return to Juba.

In Sudan overall, the incidence of Guinea worm disease has been reduced from 118,578 cases in 1996 to a provisional total of 2,753 cases reported in 2009 - a 98 percent decrease. Since 2003, there have been no indigenous cases of Guinea worm disease in northern Sudan.

Eliminating Guinea worm disease in Sudan will strengthen health, agricultural development, and school attendance. Once Guinea worm is gone, additional focus can be applied to other major public health problems in the nation which, with support from The Carter Center, are already using the same disease prevention infrastructure created by the Guinea Worm Eradication Program—including river blindness control in northern Sudan and trachoma control in both northern and southern Sudan.

During his visit, President Carter also met with officials in Khartoum and Juba to discuss plans for the upcoming multi-party elections in April. At the invitation of the Sudanese authorities, The Carter Center launched its election observation mission in February 2008 to assess Sudan's entire electoral process, and President Carter plans to return to Sudan to observe elections in April.

Editor's Note:

  • Additional Carter Center-assisted health work in Sudan: Based on lessons learned from the Guinea Worm Eradication Program, the Southern Sudan Ministry of Health and The Carter Center have used similar grassroots mobilization to support prevention efforts for two devastating blinding diseases endemic to Sudan - river blindness, a parasitic infection the Center supports control of in the north of Sudan (including eliminating the disease from the Abu Hamad focus on the River Nile); and trachoma (the south is believed to be one of the world's worst-affected regions for trachoma, a preventable, bacterial infection).
  • Status of the international campaign: When The Carter Center began spearheading the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, less than a fraction of one percent of cases remain in only four endemic countries: Sudan, Ghana, Mali, and Ethiopia. Approximately 86 percent of remaining cases are found in Southern Sudan.
  • Additional resources: Up-to-date Guinea worm resources including, monthly case reporting, graphs, news articles, and human interest stories are available on the Center's site at


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center. 

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