Mention guinea worm to our Malual-Chum program directors, and they shudder. Both have scars from where long, white worms have emerged with a pain like fire. Both have relatives who are still infected with guinea worms to this day. The larva lives in dirty drinking water. A year after drinking infested water, a blister forms on the body, and the worm comes slowly out. The only relief is to place the effected body part in water; when that happens, drinking water is infected again. There’s no vaccine or medicine that will kill guinea worm. The only solution is to stop the worm from re-infecting people.
South Sudan is one of the few places left on earth where the guinea worm still causes pain and suffering. The impact on economic growth, education, and infant health is significant; when you are incapacitated for a month or more because worms are burnng their way out of your body, you can’t really farm or go to school or take care of a baby.
The Carter Center has been doing fantastic work in eliminating guinea worm around the globe. In a fascinating walk at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Donald Hopkins, the Carter Center’s vice-president for health programs, showed where guinea worm remains: in South Sudan, mainly in Eastern Equatoria and Warrap States. The Carter Center has deployed thousands of volunteers in its years of working in South Sudan, and hopes to reach all of Warrap State soon. This video (which is graphic) shows the problem and the Carter Center’s work.
No health-care workers have come to Malual-Chum to talk about how to fight the scourge of guinea worm. But they may not have to. Dr. Brown pointed out that the best, long-range solution to eliminating guinea worm is clean drinking water from a well. With a well in Malual-Chum, no insects will be dancing on the water with their load of suffering. We can stop guinea worm ourselves in this remote part of South Sudan.