Abu Dhabi: Fight against Guinea Worm Disease caused by a parasitic worm

It affects poor communities who consume contaminated water



by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 22 Mar 2022, 8:21 PM

Nations have renewed commitment to eradicate Guinea worm disease by signing a historic declaration in Abu Dhabi.

Guinea worm disease is a neglected tropical disease caused by Dracunculus medinensis, a parasitic worm. It affects poor communities in remote parts of Africa who consume water contaminated with worm larvae as they lack access to safe water.

Marking World Water Day, the ‘Abu Dhabi Declaration on the Eradication of Guinea Worm Disease’ was inked during the Guinea Worm Summit held at Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi.

Historic declaration inked to eliminate Guinea Worm Disease. Photo: Supplied
Historic declaration inked to eliminate Guinea Worm Disease. Photo: Supplied

Leaders from Angola, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan inked the ‘Mission Zero’ declaration in the presence of Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan, Cabinet Member and Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Jason Carter, grandson of former US president Jimmy Carter and the board of trustees at the Carter Center; and Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, the World Health Organisation.

“Access to safe water and sanitation is important in the prevention, care and management of all neglected tropical diseases, the diseases of poverty, that massively impact the health of over 1 billion people,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.

More than 30 years ago, the UAE began partnering with the Carter Center through a commitment by the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

In November 2017, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, launched the Reaching the Last Mile Fund to raise $100 million with the aim of eradicating, eliminating and controlling preventable diseases that impact the health and economic prospects of the world’s poorest people.

In January 2021, Sheikh Mohamed renewed financial support of $10 million to the Carter Center.

With the unwavering commitment of partners and countries involved, last year, only 15 human cases of Guinea worm disease were reported around the world – a historic low compared to 3.5 million cases in 1986.

Adam Joseph Weiss, director of Guinea Worm Eradication Programme at the Carter Center, pointed out the record dip in the number of cases was a “historic moment”.

“There are only 15 human beings with the disease, on a planet of nearly 8 billion people.”

Dr Dieudonné Sankara, WHO team leader, Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, added: “Reaching this milestone is a success story of global health.”

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Tala Al Ramahi, associate director, Office of Strategic Affairs, Crown Prince Court, noted: “Elimination efforts have positive financial impacts that uplift the community and relieve people from cycles of poverty.”

Through concerted efforts, Guinea worm disease, after smallpox, could become the second human disease in history to be eradicated.

“The last human disease to be eradicated was smallpox, and that was 42 years ago. Guinea worm disease is now on the cusp of eradication. But, on the cusp is not zero and on the cusp is hard,” said Simon Bland, CEO, Global Institute for Disease Elimination.


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