The end of the Guinea worm disease appears imminent, with just 25 cases reported in 2016 and the number of affected countries dropping from four to three, according to the Carter Center. Mali reported no cases last year, leaving Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan as the last places in the world where the disease exists.
“The progress we have seen in restricting Guinea worm disease to these few cases in only three countries is a testament to the dedication of people in endemic areas to caring for their health and that of their communities,” Carter Center Vice President of Health Programs Dean Sienko said in a statement. “It’s a privilege to partner with them as we tackle this challenge together.”
The achievement in Mali is dampened by the fact that the total number of cases increased from 22 in 2015 to 25 in 2016. But the Carter Center, an international organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, is optimistic. It said that the ability to track and contain cases before they could spread improved significantly. That may lead to fewer cases in 2017.
The 25 cases in 2015 occurred in 19 isolated villages across the three countries. By tracking cases, health officials are able to target programs that promote filtering drinking water and prevent infected people from going into local water sources. That could reduce cases in 2017 and lead to eradication.
“These last few cases of Guinea worm disease remain because they are the most difficult to reach, often appearing in conflict areas or among remote, disenfranchised populations,” Carter said in a statement. “The Carter Center is bringing to bear all of our experience and every resource available to track down, isolate and treat these last remaining cases. Every case and every person counts when eradication is the goal.”