Aggressive Attack On Guinea Worm Disease

UN Integrated Regional Information Network
May 23, 2001

The Sudan Guinea Worm Pipe Filter Project has begun to distribute nine million filters, one for every man, women and child at risk of Guinea worm disease in a country that poses "the final great challenge to Guinea worm eradication", according to a press release from the US-based Carter Centre on Tuesday.

"We are grateful for this opportunity to aggressively attack Guinea worm in Sudan, but also encouraged by the eagerness of all interested parties in the fight to eradicate this debilitating disease," said former US President Jimmy Carter of the Carter Centre, one of the leading agencies involved in Guinea worm eradication worldwide. In Sudan, it has Health Development International (HDI), Hydro Polymers of Norsk Hydro and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) as its key partners in tackling the disease.

The Guinea worm is a 3,000 year-old parasite that gives rise, through contaminated water, to a disease which cripples victims, leaving them unable to work, attend school, care for children or harvest crops. Use of the pipe filter, adapted from nomads' traditional practice of filtering water with a nylon cloth, prevents individuals from drinking contaminated water and interrupts disease transmission, according to the Carter Centre.

The nature and incidence of the disease, coupled with the number of nomads and conflict-displaced people and the difficulty of accessing safe drinking water, gave rise to the idea of producing and distributing pipe filters in Sudan.

The country's Guinea Worm Eradication Programme reported more than 54,000 cases last year, from 3,386 villages, the Carter Centre stated on Tuesday. That represented almost three-quarters of all reported cases, after the worldwide incidence had been reduced from 3.2 million cases in 1986 to fewer than 75,000 in 2000.

The regions with the highest recorded incidences were West and South Kordofan in the midwest and southern Blue Nile, White Nile and Sinnar in east-central Sudan, the Centre added.

"We feel the pipe filter project is the quickest and most effective solution at this time to eradicate Guinea worm disease in Sudan, given the constraints of the environment and the costs associated with providing clean water," said Mikkel Storm, Public Affairs Manager of Hydro Polymers, after a visit to Sudan.

The core project partners have been joined by over 39 implementing agencies, 16 working groups and many supporting industries in the effort to produce, assemble and distribute the nine million pipe filters before the July rains, when the high disease transmission season begins, according to the Carter Centre. Some 5.5 million pipe filters have already been produced and distributed in the most endemic areas, and another million currently await distribution.

Dr Rumishael Shoo, the WHO's South Sudan Coordinator, told IRIN on Wednesday that Guinea worm was "a very big problem" in the country, especially in the south, which was by far the largest reservoir in the world, and that tackling it was a real priority.

He welcomed the material and resource inputs involved in the Sudan Guinea Worm Pipe Filter Project, while stressing that it was also vital to get all the stakeholders, including local communities, involved in order to ensure that the correct strategies were put in place to eradicate the scourge of the disease.

"The massive Pipe Filter Project has the potential to greatly influence the number of new cases in 2002," said Mikkel Storm. "However, we must remain aware that it is the continued conflict that leaves many parts of the country inaccessible or difficult to reach, making the prevalence of disease and the actual number of cases unknown."