Armed conflict and lack of commitment are threatening the eradication of guinea-worm disease, despite a 98% drop in prevalence over the last 12 years. This disease, also known as dracunculiasis from the name of the worm that causes it, Dracunculus medinensis (the Medina small dragon or serpent) can be prevented by providing safe access to drinking-water through filtering, digging wells, and other interventions. Because the disease causes severe illness and distress, and is preventable by these simple means, an alliance was formed in 1991 by WHO, UNICEF, the Carter Center and others to eradicate it. In Sudan, however, civil conflict has made endemic villages inaccessible and 60 000 cases were recorded in 2001. In the remaining 11 countries where transmission still occurs, the relatively small case-load prompts governments to neglect this disease.
Former US President Jimmy Carter said at a meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, from 4 to 7 March to review the eradication effort: "To overcome these obstacles we need financial support, political will, and diplomatic backing so affected countries can finish the job as quickly as possible."
Further information at: www. who.int/ctd/dracun/disease.htm