The world continues to inch towards the eradication of two more diseases.
The number of Guinea worm cases continues to decline. According to the latest WHO bulletin, in January through September 2011, there were 1,008 cases of dracunculasis reported, compared with 1,744 through the entirety of 2010. 982 of these were in South Sudan, the world’s newest country and one of the world’s poorest. As the bulletin notes, the major barrier to the eradication of the disease in South Sudan is the lack of safe drinking water sources in villages. Hopefully, the stabilization of the political situation in South Sudan will enable safe drinking water to finally be provided in the area.
Meanwhile, India is tantalizingly close to eradicating polio from within its boundaries, with India’s last case reported on January 13, 2011. It takes three years without transmission for a country to be declared “free” of the disease, but, still, it’s a shot in the arm (so to speak) for the program. Polio eradication not traveling quite so well in other countries: the infection rate is rising in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and transmission has reestablished itself in several other countries.
As Maryn McKenna notes, the monitoring board overseeing the project has issued a scathing report on the program, stating that “The Programme is not on track for its end-2012 goal (RM: of interrupting polio transmission), or for any time soon after unless fundamental problems are tackled.” Pakistan, particularly, seems to be problematic. I don’t imagine that the CIA’s shenanigans in the leadup to the Abbottabad raid helped, but there appear to be bigger issues. Nigeria’s efforts to eradiacate polio also seem to be failing.
Despite this, the review board still thinks the goal of stopping transmission by the end of this year is possible ” if the weaknesses of the Programme at both country and global level can be swiftly corrected, and if political commitment and financial support for the GPEI can be bolstered”.