Experts say the last years of the eradication effort, led by the US Carter Center, will be the “toughest.”

Only 13 human cases of Guinea worm disease They were reported worldwide last year, according to the Carter Center in the US.

After decades of progress, Adam Weiss, director of the Carter Center’s Guinea worm eradication program, warns of the endgame in global efforts to Eliminates parasitic disease It will be the “hardest”.

The Atlanta-based center – founded by former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Eleanor Rosalynn Carter – said on Tuesday that the 13 infections occurred in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Six human cases have been reported in Chad, five in South Sudan, one in Ethiopia and one in the Central African Republic, and the investigation is still under investigation.

This is a significant decrease since 1986 when former President Carter, 98, began leading global eradication efforts and when the disease infected 3.5 million people.

The figures, which are tentative, are expected to be confirmed in the coming months.

“We’re really in the middle of that last mile and experiencing firsthand that it’s going to be a very long and hard last mile,” Weiss told the Associated Press. “Not as much as it takes more than the next seven years — five to seven years — but just knowing that getting to zero is going to be slow.”

Guinea worm affects some of the most vulnerable people in the world and can be prevented by training people to filter and drink clean water.

People who drink unclean water can ingest parasites that can Grows up to 1 meter (3 feet) tall.. The worm incubates humans for up to a year before emerging painfully, often through the feet or other sensitive parts of the body.

Populations where Guinea worm persists are vulnerable to local insecurity, including conflict, Weiss said, which can prevent staff and volunteers from going door-to-door to implement interventions or provide support.

“If we get our foot off the gas in terms of trying to accelerate getting to zero and providing support to those communities, there is no doubt that you will see an increase in Guinea worm,” Weiss said. “We’re continuing to make progress, even if it’s not as fast as we all want it to be, but that progress is continuing.”

Guinea worm is poised to be the second human disease to be eradicated after smallpox, according to the Carter Center.

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