As we move through this Holiday week, I think it is good to give Jimmy Carter some serious praise. This is one remarkable man.
News came this week that he is on the verge of eradicating the horrible Guinea Worm disease. This is a parasite driven disease where water fleas–carrying guinea worm larvae–enter the body in contaminated drinking water. The larvae penetrate the walls of the small intestine and breed. The male dies and the pregnant female grows to a 3 foot worm that travels through the body to emerge out of a boil on the legs or arms. Once the boil comes in contact with water thousands of new larvae are released, the worm dies and the cycle begins anew.
Or at least it used to begin anew until Jimmy Carter decided to take the worm out.
Back in 1950 more than 50 million cases of the disease were reported each year. This was not a hard disease to prevent as straining water through a simple cloth filter keeps the parasites out of the drinking water. The key is to educate people about how to protect themselves and their drinking water.
When Jimmy Carter began his effort to take out this disease back in 1986 education efforts had reduced the number of reported cases down to 3.5 million. These were in the 20 Countries where education efforts were difficult to do because of remoteness, poverty and war. By 2009 Carter had reduced the list down to 3,200 cases in 4 Countries. And it looks like in 2010 the number will be below 1,700 cases in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Sudan.
Jimmy Carter hopes to live to see the day when this horrible disease is basically eradicated through education and hard work. Of the four remaining Countries, Sudan will be the hardest case because of Civil War. As Carter put it in an understatement: “War and good health are incompatible.”
Jimmy Carter is a bad ass. If all he had been doing for the last 25 years was this, that would be pretty impressive–but he has been doing so much more.
If you are moved to support the work of the Carter Center to eradicate these parasites you could follow this link.