NAIROBI, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Kenya could be free of guinea worm disease before the end of this year as the country has intensified surveillance and public awareness to avert a re-emergence of the disease, an official said on Monday.
Jackson Kioko, the acting director of medical services in the Ministry of Health, said Kenya had put solid interventions in place to hasten the eradication of guinea worm disease in the country.
"In Kenya, the last indigenous case of guinea worm occurred in 1994 and through intensified surveillance over the years, we have reasons to believe the disease is inching closer to eradication," Kioko said.
The Ministry of Health, supported by multilateral partners and grassroots campaigners, has since last year intensified public awareness on guinea worm disease in high-risk counties bordering South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Kioko said surveillance had in particular been intensified in villages bordering South Sudan, where Guinea worm disease was still endemic.
"We have managed to mitigate re-emergence of guinea worm disease through sustained public education, improving access to safe drinking water and community-led surveillance in high risk counties," said Kioko.
The Ministry of Health will in September invite international experts to evaluate whether the country qualifies as a guinea worm disease-free zone.
Kioko said the East African nation had attained key benchmarks set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be declared free of guinea worm disease.
"We have passed a critical threshold in the guinea worm disease certification process and are certain the country will be free from this devastating infection by the end of this year," Kioko said.
WHO says guinea worm disease is on the brink of becoming the second ailment in the world to be eliminated after small pox.
Only two cases of guinea worm disease were confirmed globally in 2016, down from three million cases annually in the 1980s.