Juba, 11 December 2017: With the aim to achieve the target of zero transmission, the South Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (SSGWEP) was established in 2006 with 20 581 cases reported from 3 320 endemic villages. In November 2017, the country celebrated its first full year with no indigenous cases of the disease.
‘A terrible itching, blister formation and emergence of a long worm are the first signs and symptom of Guinea worm disease,’ says Mr Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative a.i. for South Sudan.
Guinea worm disease is a parasitic worm infection that has been endemic in the world affecting more than 20 countries mostly in the African region. In 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million people infected annually in 21 endemic countries, the number declined to 25 confirmed cases from Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan. By the end of November 2017, only 26 cases have been reported from two countries namely Chad and Ethiopia.
Although insecurity and the emergence of Guinea worm disease in animals are the challenges facing the eradication of the disease, globally, the disease stands on the brink of eradication with the goal of interrupting transmission by 2018, Mr Liyosi emphasized.
Since the systematic interventions commenced in 2006 in South Sudan and were gradually intensified until the final indigenous case occurred in December 2016 from Roc-Roc Dong Payam in Jur River County, former Western Bahr El Ghazal State, dedicated leadership by government officials and strong support from the Carter Center, WHO, UNICEF, other partners and the community were key to this program's dramatic success says Mr Makoy Samuel, the SSGWEP Director.
Honorable Dr Riek Gai Kok, Minister of Health, commended the support provided by The Carter Center, WHO, UNICEF and WFP in complementing the efforts of the South Sudan Guinea worm eradication program in interrupting transmission of Guinea worm disease from the county.
While South Sudan continues with pre-certification surveillance for Guinea worm disease over the remaining two years so that it can be officially certified by the World Health Organization as free of the disease, the SSGWEP with support from the Carter Center, WHO, UNICEF and partners conducted the 12th annual review meeting from 11 to 12 December 2017 at Crown Hotel in Juba. The objective of the meeting was to review the progress and performance of the programme in 2017 and scale up the fight against the disease to maintain the free status.
“This is the most rapid reduction of Guinea worm disease in the history of the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (GWEP)compared to other eradication programs in the world,” said Mr Craig Withers, Senior Director, Office of the International Support, The Carter Center. The SSGWEP was also recognized world-wide and has received five awards during the years for the excellent contribution of individuals and the programme for making history in eradicating the disease from over 20 000 cases in 2006 to zero in 2007.
In 2012, there were 542 cases of Guinea worm reported globally, of which 521 (96.1%) were reported from South Sudan. In the history of the SSGWEP, South Sudan, the youngest nation in the world to record zero cases for one year, should be commended for its success, says Mr Liyosi. WHO’s support to the SSGWEP has focused on strengthening country-wide (including IDP and Refugee camps) and cross-border surveillance, advocate for access to safe drinking water in endemic villages, raising public awareness of the disease, the cash reward offered for voluntary reporting as well as preparing the country for certification, Mr Liyosi emphasized
“This momentum might not be lost”, says H.E. Gen. Taban Deng Gai, the First-Vice President, Republic of South Sudan. For the certification process to continue successfully, he urged the participants to deliberate the recommendation for the country to be certified Guinea Worm free.
Despite the huge challenges, The Carter Center, WHO and UNICEF have stepped up support to SSGWEP through establishing a community-based surveillance system capable of detecting all cases and effective intervention to break the transmission.
The review meeting concluded that the SSGWEP should be strengthened through the increase of resources, enhanced surveillance, increased public awareness on the newly launched cash reward for reporting Guinea worm cases as well as monitoring and evaluation at all levels.
The meeting was graced by the presence of H.E. Gen. Taban Deng Gai, the First-Vice President, Republic of South Sudan, Honorable Dr Riek Gai Kok, Minister of Health, Republic of South Sudan, Honorable Jemma Nunu Jumba, Minister of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism and acting Secretary General of SPLM Party, Mr Craig Withers, Senior Director, Office of the International Support, The Carter Center, Dr Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, Mr Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative a.i. for South Sudan, Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF Country Representative,Ms Lillian Okwirry, Acting Deputy Representative of UNICEF, Dr Makur M. Kariom, the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, State Ministers, Directors General and officials of the Ministry of Health, Representatives from the Ethiopia Guinea Worm Programme among others.