President Jimmy Carter says he plans to meet with President-elect Donald Trump to highlight the effort to eradicate Guinea worm disease.
Fighting the disease has been a focus for Carter since the mid-1980s, and there has been progress. According to the Carter Center, there were 25 human cases of Guinea Worm in 2016 occurring in three countries: Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. It was the first year there were no reported cases in Mali, though the total number of cases was up slightly from 2015. That’s down from about 3.5 million cases 30 years ago, according to the Carter Center.
“We know exactly how many cases still exist," Carter said. "We know exactly which village they’re in; we even know the names of the people who have Guinea worm now."
President Carter said it's important to keep up consistent work both in the countries where it exists and the countries that help fund the effort to eliminate it.
“I'll be going to the inauguration,” he said. “I'll be meeting with President-elect Trump and also with the new secretary of state, who has charge of USAID, just to let them know what we're doing.”
Guinea worm can be a debilitating disease. Larvae infect people through contaminated water, the worm grows inside their bodies, then comes out through their skin.
It’s been a challenge to eradicate the final cases of Guinea worm disease, said Carter, because progress can be interrupted by war, or new administrations in the countries where the disease persists losing interest in it, or because people become over-confident.
Carter spoke at a news conference Wednesday, held to mark the opening of a new exhibit at the Carter Center Museum that highlights the efforts to eradicate diseases like Guinea worm, smallpox and polio.
“About a billion folks who live in probably the poorest communities on earth still suffer from what’s called neglected tropical diseases,” said Carter. “I put the accent on the first word, ‘neglected,’ because in the past they have been basically ignored by the developed world.”
The show, “Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease,” was first on display at the American Museum of Natural History.