Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Last Days of Guinea Worm

Yesterday as I was driving home from work, I heard this story about Jimmy Carter's efforts to eradicate Guinea worm followed by an interview with Carter.  Once again, I was struck by what an amazing man Jimmy Carter is.

I was too young to vote in the 1976 or 1980 elections, so I can't say I've always thought that Carter was amazing.  During those years, I agreed with the adults around me who saw him as ineffectual--and as president, we could make the argument that he was.  He's been a much more forceful agent for change as a former president.  He's made the work of Habitat for Humanity much more visible, for example.

The work to eliminate Guinea worm may seem like a strange choice for a former president.  It's been a huge task, as Carter explains:  "We had 203,600 villages that we had to contact and teach each one of them how to [filter their water and avoid going in water to ease the pain when a Guinea worm emerges]. And that's what's taking 30 years."

And today, there are just two cases left compared to 3.5 million a year when Carter started his work.  With luck, we could see this parasite vanquished in the next year or two. 

I like these reminders that change is possible, that painful parasites can be wiped out, that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

We might argue that Carter has resources that ordinary people don't have, and that's correct.  I'm still heartened when people with extra resources use those resources to improve the world, especially the impoverished parts of the world.

And most of us who live in the first world have far more resources, even if they're not presidential resources, than much of the rest of the world.  How can we use some of our resources to help those who are less fortunate?

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