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At a glance: Niger

UNICEF working to eradicate Guinea worm disease in Niger

© UNICEF Niger/2008/Bisin
Thanks to early detection, Kadri Ne Zeilou Beidari’s twin sons were given adequate care and were cured of Guinea worm disease in Yogaré village, Tillabery region, Niger.

By Sandra Bisin

YOGARE VILLAGE, Niger, 29 December 2008 – Not a day passes without Kadri Ne Zeilou Beidari remembering the time when both her twin sons contracted Guinea worm disease.  

“It first started with my son Hassane, who told me his chest was itching. He was scratching his thorax and his arms with such frenzy that I started panicking,” she says.

This was in 2006, and Ms. Beidari recognized her son’s symptoms thanks to a recent Guinea worm disease sensitization campaign in her village. “I decided I should call our community health worker. He came immediately and we took Hassane to the nearest health centre. A few days later, his twin brother Housseini also showed the early signs of the disease,” she recalls.

Fortunately, both children were able to receive treatment while still in the early stages of the disease.

Disease from dirty water

“I know what happened was due to the dirty water we used to drink from one of the ponds in the village,” says Ms. Beidari. “Today, we have a brand-new water pump for the village. I no longer go fetch water at the ponds, as I know the water at the pump is safe and good for my children.”

Dracunculiasis, better known as Guinea worm, is a debilitating parasitic disease caused by a threadlike worm that infests stagnant water. A person becomes infected by drinking from a pond infested by the larvae of the parasite.

When the worm emerges on the surface of the body it causes great pain, fevers, nausea and ulcers. Without adequate care, the ulcers may take a long time to heal and may be complicated by secondary infections, stiff joints and a debilitating atrophy of the limbs.

A holistic approach

Guinea worm can be eradicated, and progress is already being made in Niger. Thanks to a holistic approach to prevention, UNICEF has helped reduce its incidence to just 14 cases in 2007 and to just three cases as of November 2008, one of which was imported from Mali.

© UNICEF Niger/2008/Bisin
Women pump water at the borehole constructed by UNICEF in Yogaré, Niger. UNICEF supports building wells that provide safe water and drastically reduce the incidence of Guinea worm.

The UNICEF-supported Guinea Worm Eradication Project is now focusing solely on Tillabery, the only zone of the country where the disease is still endemic. The project aims to eradicate Guinea worm in Niger and to improve drinking water supplies in the region.

The borehole located in Ms. Beidari’s village of Yogaré is one of the 13 boreholes constructed in the Tillabery region in 2008, all with UNICEF support. They serve more than 6,000 people from 13 villages. In 2009, UNICEF is planning to build 30 additional boreholes in the region.

Reward system for case reporting

In Yogaré, four community agents ensure that Guinea worm disease is kept at bay. A surveillance system has been established to screen and confirm any reported case, as well as collect data from community health workers.

In addition, 200 community health workers involved in the region’s Guinea worm eradication efforts received refresher training this year. A reward system for case reporting has also been established.

“When Kadri Ne Zeilou Beidari reported the cases of her twin sons, both she and the community health worker received a $10 reward,” says National Programme for Guinea Worm Eradication spokesperson Boulama Ousmane. “This is a significant incentive for families to report cases.”



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