South Sudan closer toward eradicating guinea worm disease: officials

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-13 00:45:52|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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JUBA, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese officials said Tuesday they are closer to eradicate the guinea worm disease that has ravaged the war-torn country.

First Vice President Taban Deng Gai said despite attaining zero case in the past 12 months, there remains an urgent need to strengthen existing mechanisms to prevent the disease from resurfacing.

"As we celebrate today I wish that you re-examine the teams, mechanisms and models that you have put today, so that we don't have a resurface of this disease," Gai said at the guinea worm eradication evaluation conference in Juba.

He added it remains important to strengthen surveillance to prevent re-infection, improve public awareness, and increase safe water to villages.

Minister of Health Riek Gai Kok said the latest success demonstrates the effective collaboration between government and partners like Carter Center, World Health Organization, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Program (WFP).

"I am pleased to announce that South Sudan has gone 12 months of zero cases of guinea worm disease since the last case was reported in November 2016," Kok said.

He revealed that MOH is rolling out its flagship Boma (county) health initiative program to bridge gaps in access to basic health services for the majority of South Sudanese.

Kok added that this initiative will draw lessons from the successful community-based guinea worm eradication program.

"The implementation of the Boma initiative will also build synergies necessary to effectively take South Sudan across the finish line and be certified free of guinea worm disease and elimination of other neglected tropical diseases," he said.

Massive eradication program launched in 2006 by the government with support from aid organizations reduced guinea worm infections from over 20,000 in 2006 to just one case in 2016.

According to the WHO, guinea worm disease is endemic in South Sudan, Ethiopia and Chad.

Contracted and spread by drinking contaminated water, guinea worms can grow up to one meter long in the human body. It digs out of the skin through blisters after 10 to 14 months, leaving deep wounds.

Though not fatal in most cases, complications of Guinea-worm disease involve deformation of the human body, which may also disrupt the mobility of the patients.