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Jimmy Carter Eradicating Guinea Worm

Jimmy Carter Eradicating Guinea Worm - Lily pads and purple flowers dot one corner of the watering hole. Bright green algae covers another. Two women collect water in plastic jugs while a cattle herder bathes nearby.

Samuel Makoy is not interested in the bucolic scenery, though. He has an epidemic to quash.

Makoy points out to the women the fingernail-length worm-like creatures whose tails flick back and forth. Then a pond-side health lesson begins on a spaghetti-like worm that has haunted humans for centuries.

This fight against the guinea worm is a battle former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has waged for more than two decades in some of the poorest countries on earth. It is a battle he's almost won.

Jimmy Carter Eradicating Guinea Worm

In the 1950s the 3-foot-long guinea worm ravaged the bodies of an estimated 50 million people, forcing victims through months of pain while the worm exited through a swollen blister on the leg, making it impossible for them to tend to cows or harvest crops. By 1986, the number dropped to 3.5 million. Last year only 3,190 cases were reported.

Today the worm is even closer to being wiped out. Fewer than 1,700 cases have been found this year in only four countries — Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Sudan, where more than 95 percent of the cases are. The worm's near-eradication is thanks in large part to the efforts of Carter and his foundation.

"I'm still determined to outlive the last guinea worm," Carter told The Associated Press in a phone interview. The 86-year-old set that goal in the 1980s, when his center helped eliminate guinea worm from Pakistan and other Asian nations.

Jimmy Carter Eradicating Guinea Worm

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