Neglected tropical diseases

South Sudan dracunculiasis eradication campaign goes full-steam ahead, despite challenges

© Jacques Ritlewski
Guinea-worm disease awareness and education campaign in a remote village in Kapoeta East, South Sudan, 2013
Geneva | 09 August 2013

Strong political commitment, prompt reporting and rapid investigation of rumoured cases combined with effective case-containment and heightened surveillance activities have significantly reduced transmission of dracunculiasis (also known as guinea-worm disease) in South Sudan.

If the trend continues, the South Sudan Ministry of Health is confident that it can achieve zero transmission by early 2015, despite challenges on the ground.

The country reported 521 cases out of the global total of 542 in 2012.

Despite insecurity and population movements in some highly endemic areas, the Ministry of Health is implementing strategies to interrupt transmission with support from WHO, The Carter Center and UNICEF. Health-care workers and volunteers are working tirelessly and innovative measures are being implemented to encourage people to come forward to containment centres.

UNICEF has been working to drill boreholes in many remote villages, improving the supply of safe drinking-water.

South Sudan launched a full-scale eradication programme in 2006. Since then, the number of cases has reduced sharply, from 20 582 in 2006 to 1028 in 2011 and 521 in 2012. Between January and May 2013, only 55 cases were reported, compared with 286 for the same period last year. This represents a net decrease of 80%.

Remaining affected countries

Chad, Ethiopia and Mali, the three other countries still endemic for dracunculiasis, reported 13 cases between January and May 2013 despite accelerated eradication efforts. In June 2013, the Ethiopian Minister of Health led a high-level delegation to the Gambella region (the only endemic region in Ethiopia)in a bid to spur eradication efforts.

During the 1980s, there was an estimated 3.5 million cases of dracunculiasis in 20 countries worldwide, 17 of which were in Africa.


Six countries - Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan - have interrupted transmission of dracunculiasis and are now in the precertification stage.

In June and July 2013, International Certification Teams from the International Commission for the

Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (ICCDE) visited Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria to carry out extensive reviews of records and perform national and field assessments of interruption of transmission. The team will submit its findings to the ICCDE in December 2013.


Dracunculiasis is a crippling parasitic disease caused by Dracunculus medinensis, a long thread-like worm. The disease, which has afflicted humanity for centuries, is transmitted exclusively when people drink water contaminated with parasite-infected water fleas.