Guinea Worm Eradication

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About the Fiery Serpent

Boy using pipe filter

Guinea worm is known as “the fiery serpent” because of the special and often excruciating, burning pain – a pain which develops as the Guinea worm is preparing to emerge through the skin.

A year after you drink water infested with the Guinea worm larvae, adult worms emerge through the skin anywhere on the body, usually below the neck in adults. Each worm is up to 1-meter long, and takes 3-8 weeks to come out completely, 2-3cm each day.

Neither drugs nor vaccines have any impact on the Guinea worm, but patients benefit from bandaging and antiseptic as long as the wound is open.

Three simple interventions

Eradicating Guinea worm disease is being done without diverting substantial resources from other pressing programs. All it takes is:

  • Giving Guinea worm villages priority for safe drinking water
  • Filtering water from unsafe sources through tightly woven cloth.
  • Keeping people with Guinea worm out of the water while the worms emerge.

These main interventions against Guinea worm are simple. They strengthen the water supply, agriculture, education, women’s income, nutrition and maternal & child health sectors. As the number of Guinea worm cases decreases, the overall economy and self-sufficiency of people in endemic villages is strengthened. Food production can increase 40% and area under cultivation by subsistence farmers increases by e.g. 25%.

Preventing economic hardship

The need to get rid of Guinea worm becomes even more pressing when we realize that this nasty parasite also causes so much unnecessary economic hardship. It puts people out of work for weeks and months, just at the most critical times of the agricultural year for small-scale farmers. To understand the damage, just imagine taking 20-80 % of the agricultural population out of work at planting or harvest season in a farming community near you.

HDI’s goal: Eradication of Guinea worm

HDI’s goal is to provide support for the global Guinea worm eradication effort in ways that none of the big organizations can do.

Inspired by the very successful smallpox eradication program, HDI has since 1993 been among other things financing a cash-reward system for use in nations which have almost or recently eliminated Guinea, worm.

Since its founding in 1990, HDI has been making a variety of important contributions to Guinea Worm eradication, elaborated on in The Case for Supporting HDI, located on the Donate page.

Supported by some of the world’s largest organizations and corporations

HDI partners with agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and The Carter Center in our effort to globally eradicate the ancient scourge of Guinea worm disease. HDI and Carter Center are the only two not-for-profit organizations (NGOs) that have been working on this Carter Center-led effort all along.

Since HDI’s inception in 1990, we have also worked to engage support for Guinea worm eradication from groups such as the World Bank, the European Union (EU), individual European governments, the Vatican, OXFAM, and a number of major, multilateral corporations. In fact, some corporations have effectively combined support of Guinea worm eradication with their corporate profiling efforts. As of early 2007, HDI’s Guinea worm eradication efforts were supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Fondation Pro Victimis.

For more information about Guinea Worm Eradication check out Resources.

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