Last month former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn,
participated in the International Conference on the Eradication
of Guinea Worm Disease in Khartoum, Sudan.
Representatives of all 13 remaining endemic countries convened
in Khartoum for the conference. President of the Republic of Sudan
Omar Al Bashir presided over the opening ceremony, which also featured
remarks by Carter, Nigerian head of state Yakubu Gowon and Sudanese
health minister Amed Bilal.
Through an international coalition, 98 percent of all Guinea
worm cases have been eliminated, but serious challenges remain,
Carter said. To overcome these obstacles, we need financial
support, political will and diplomatic backing so affected countries
can finish the job as quickly as possible.
Carter noted there is no way to separate the suffering due to Guinea
worm, AIDS, river blindness or trachoma from that caused by conflict,
and that Guinea worm disease cannot be eradicated without peace
Bashir recalled the acceptance of Carters proposal for the
Guinea Cease-Fire in 1995 and said the absence of stability
and peace are now the main obstacles to Guinea worm eradication
his country. After congratulating the countries already certified
as Guinea worm-free, as well as those still working
hard to become so, Bashir unveiled three commemorative postage stamps
in honor of the milestone on the road to eradication.
Sudan remains the greatest challenge to Guinea worm eradication,
accounting for 80 percent of the worlds remaining reported
cases, and the Sudan civil war is now the single largest obstacle.
Last year the Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program reported 49,471
cases of Guinea worm in 3,921 villages; however, the civil war prevents
health workers from obtaining complete reports and educating people
on how to eradicate the disease in about 2,500 now endemic villages.
The areas with the highest incidence of disease are located in
the southern part of the country. Low-level transmission still occurs
in seven northern states, particularly along their borders with
the southern endemic states. These northern states account for less
than 1 percent of the total number of cases in Sudan.
Despite 18 years of civil war in Sudan, there have been major steps
toward eradication of the disease. In 1995, the Carter Center brokered
a humanitarian cease-fire that lasted nearly six months, and last
summer all Sudanese parties helped to distribute nearly 9 million
pipe filtersone for every man, woman and child at risk for
Guinea worm. Use of the pipe filter prevents individuals from consuming
contaminated water, thus interrupting disease transmission.
Using low-tech methods and knowledge gained from eradication
efforts, the poorest of the poor have the tools to help themselves
and achieve results, said Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, technical director
of the Carter Centers Global 2000 Guinea Worm Eradication
Program. However, peace and stability also are essential to
the eradication effort.
Since 1993, Guinea worm disease has been totally eradicated from
seven countries: Cameroon, Chad, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Senegal
and Yemen. In 12 African countries (excluding Sudan), an estimated
14,000 cases of Guinea worm occurred in 2001.
The world expects the remaining African countries that are
close to eradication to do it soon, said Donald Hopkins, Carter
Center associate executive director for health programs. When
that happens, the eradication of this disease will set a precedent
for wiping out other preventable diseases such as polio, measles,
river blindness and lymphatic filariasis
In addition to the centers fight against Guinea worm, the
Carter Center has a number of other programs working to advance
both health and peace in Sudan. The Carter Center established offices
in the country in 1995 and as a neutral party assists medical personnel
on both sides of the civil war. The center expanded its work in
fighting disease in Sudan to include river blindness and trachoma
control in 1995 and 2000, respectively.
On the peace front, the center continues its work with the governments
of Sudan and Uganda to implement the 1999 Nairobi Agreement, aimed
at improving relations between the two countries through addressing
issues of mutual concern, notably support for rebel groups active
in each others countries.