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Press centre

News note

Jimmy Carter escalates efforts against Guinea worm in Togo

Carter Center Press Release

NEW YORK, 26 January 2004 - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and his wife, Rosalynn, will travel on behalf of The Carter Center to West Africa Feb. 2-6, 2004, to call international attention to the need to eliminate the last 1 percent of Guinea worm disease remaining in the world.
The Carter Center team will visit Togo and Mali and be joined in Ghana by World Health Organization Director-General Dr. LEE Jong-wook and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam. The Carter Center, UNICEF, and WHO are lead partners in a worldwide coalition that has helped countries reduce incidences of the disease by 99 percent, from 3.5 million in 1986 to approximately 35,000 today. Ghana Minister of Health Dr. Kweku Afriyie will host and guide the visiting delegations during a tour of villages with Guinea worm disease.
Members of the general public can accompany President Carter virtually by visiting www.cartercenter.org as President Carter "blogs," or publishes regular journal entries from the field. Beginning Feb. 2, the reports on the Carter Center’s Web site will share his thoughts and feelings during his journey in West Africa.
Guinea worm disease is expected to be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated, and the first disease to be eradicated without vaccines or medications. It is contracted when people consume stagnant water, contaminated with microscopic water fleas carrying infective larvae. Inside a human’s abdomen, the larvae mature and grow, some as long as three feet. After a year, the worm slowly emerges through a painful blister in the skin, usually on the lower limbs.
"Guinea worm disease is unfamiliar, even unimaginable to most people in the developed world. The pain and suffering it causes its victims are tragic, yet they are preventable," said President Carter, chairman of The Carter Center and 2002 Nobel laureate. "Relieving the suffering caused by Guinea worm is as easy as educating people about the disease and providing them with simple solutions to make their drinking water safe. Health is a human right and can be a foundation for peace. The end is in sight. Working together, we can stop Guinea worm now."
The delegation will visit Tamale in Ghana’s Northern Region to talk with villagers and community leaders combating the disease in the most highly endemic area remaining in West Africa. With 13 of the original 20 endemic countries free or nearly free of Guinea worm, the disease remains only in West Africa and Sudan. Ghana is the most endemic Guinea worm country in West Africa, second in the world only to Sudan, which has nearly 70 percent of remaining cases. Ghana accounts for about 25 percent of approximately *35,000 reported cases in 2003. 

(* 2003 provisional numbers)




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