Kenya is declared free of dracunculiasis by WHO

Kenya is declared free of dracunculiasis by WHO

The World Health Organisation has certified Kenya free of dracunculiasis following the recommendation of the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (ICCDE).

Kenya has become the 187th WHO member to be certified as dracunculiasis-free, a major achievement for the country that is strengthening its commitment to advancing universal healthcare.

There are seven countries that remain affected by the disease, four of which are endemic for it: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan.

WHO, in partnership with The Carter Centre, UNICEF and CDC, will extend its efforts to provide support for these countries in eradicating the disease.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General commented:

“We congratulate Kenya and salute the work of the thousands of health workers and volunteers who braved difficult conditions for decades to achieve this milestone,”

“This triumph should inspire us all to overcome diseases of poverty and improve the lives of vulnerable people while leaving no one behind.”

WHO also congratulated South Sudan for reporting zero human cases of the disease in 2017.

Dr Riak Gai Kok, Minister of Health of South Sudan added:

“This is the result of good leadership as well as concerted efforts by all partners to get to where we are. Given the difficulties we experienced, we would not have done it by ourselves and we want to thank our partners – WHO, UNICEF and The Carter Center and many others – who stood with us,”

“I also want to pay tribute to the country's leadership for staying focused to tackle the magnitude of this problem. Even during the war, we made sure that work continued in areas that were beyond control lines and that the people continued to get the care they needed.”

In 2006 South Sudan reported more than 20,000 cases of the disease, so its rapid decline has been praised by many in the health industry.

South Sudan’s success is due to a scheme that rewards the voluntarily reporting of dracunculiasis cases as it raises awareness levels and maintained its readiness for case containment.

Mali, which has also reported zero human cases since November 2015, is implementing a similar surveillance and cash reward scheme.

Dracunculiasis is a parasitic disease caused by Dracunculus medinensis - a long, thread-like worm. It is transmitted exclusively when people drink stagnant water contaminated with parasite-infected water fleas.

Although it is rarely fatal, infected people become non-functional for weeks. It affects people in rural, deprived and isolated communities who depend mainly on open surface water sources such as ponds for drinking water.


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Image credit: World Health Organisation

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