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On the Ground with Nicholas D. Kristof: Anyak vs. The Guinea Worm
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On the Ground with Nicholas D. Kristof: Anyak vs. The Guinea Worm
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The guinea worm is a waterborne parasite that has plagued humans since ancient times, but organizations such as the Carter Center are determined to eradicate it completely. In this video, Nicholas D. Kristof follows a young Sudanese boy who is being quarantined for treatment.
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Segment 1

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The New York Times Opinion: Op-Ed Columnists
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Anyak vs. The Guinea Worm, By Nicholas D. Kristof. May 21, 2010
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF [Writer, New York Times]
Helping people is hard. But there are triumphs that make it all worthwhile. I want to tell you about a boy named Anyak. He's infected by a guinea worm, which is a waterborne parasite that has been a plague since ancient times. Guinea worms grow three feet long and cause excruciating pain when they pop out of the skin. In 1986, there were more than three and a half million cases of guinea worm around the world. Now, it is on the verge of being eradicated.
DAVID THON [Technical Adviser, The Carter Center]
A lot of people, especially in this remote part of South Sudan, people have no access to safe, clean water. And people don't have the basic understanding [of] why they get guinea worm and how they can protect themselves and their families.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
To witness this remarkable campaign for myself, I traveled with The Carter Center deep into the Sudanese bush, into one of the last enclaves of guinea worm on our planet. This is an area where there are no clinics or schools.
DAVID STOBBELAAR [Deputy Resident Technical Adviser, The Carter Center]
Well we found that he has a blister right below his testicles. That would be a sign maybe that one has guinea worm.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
David Stobbelaar is from Denver, Colorado. David Thon fled the civil war in Southern Sudan as a boy, emigrating to the United States in 2001. They work together for The Carter Center in partnership with the South Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program.
DAVID STOBBELAAR
David was able to find this boy. It looks like the worm is ready to emerge. What we'll do is we'll take him to our case containment center. At the case containment center he'll be bandaged daily, and we'll also apply a cold compress or soak the blister with water so that the worm will try to come out and release its larva.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Hello. What's your name?
ANYAK
Anyak Gol Marial
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
How did you find Anyak?
DAVID THON
Actually this morning I was coming from Mayom where the case containment center is. They just told me, this boy by the name of Anyak has a case.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
And, Anyak is a very tough kid, right Anyak? One reason for the Carter Center's success is that it gives ownership to the villagers.
DAVID STOBBELAAR
It's a village-run program. It's very village based.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
You're the sherpas, they're the mountain climbers.
DAVID STOBBELAAR
Exactly, exactly.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The Carter Center uses simple tools to disinfect water sources and encourage people to drink from wells or to use cloth filters or pipe filters. A key is to conduct outreach even in the remotest areas.
DAVID THON
This is [inaudible], one of the widest spread villages. We're just going to be visiting mostly some of our suspected cases.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
In one remote village we found a man suffering from guinea worm even though his wife is a volunteer.
DAVID THON
His name is Michael [inaudible]. This worm is somewhere in this area. But even at this point we cannot say that it is guinea worm, until a blister forms and breaks. We're just going to be checking on him.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The worm incubation period lasts more than a year. That makes it especially difficult to detect cases and prevent transmission. Michael will eventually be taken to a containment center. That's the same place that Anyak is going to right now to be quarantined until the worm emerges and can be pulled out. Anyak, is today the first time you have been in a motor vehicle of some kind?
DAVID THON
He said, I have never been on a vehicle in my life until today.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
How do you like it?
DAVID THON
He said he likes it. He said he likes it a lot.
DAVID STOBBELAAR
We erected this case containment center here. We can keep the patients here. We feed them daily and we prevent them from basically being able to go to a water source and infect the water source, thus breaking the cycle of guinea worm.
DAVID THON
Because of all the help, all the opportunities, that I was able to get in America, that's why I am who I am right now. I owe something to other people. He says he's not afraid. He's not scared.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
After dinner, I call Jimmy Carter from my satellite phone. He told me he hopes to outlive the worm. If it is eradicated, it would be only the second human disease to be erased from the face of the earth, after smallpox. If he can destroy an age-old scourge, what a legacy.
DAVID THON
Initially, when the worm is alive, like as it is, it's very hard to pull. But I think the worm is not like winding around anything there so that's why it's coming out.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
People often ask if it isn't depressing to come to places like Sudan. You see some horrific suffering here, but you also see Sudanese and Americans expressing their common humanity by working together to try to end that suffering.
DAVID STOBBELAAR
So I think everyone is very excited to see the end of this disease. And I think we all hope that some day we'll be able to tell our grandkids about this mysterious disease called guinea worm.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The worm has been passed from person to person for millennia. But so too, the understanding of our common humanity is passed from person to person.
DAVID THON
We just found him yesterday and now the worm is probably going to be out in the next maybe day or so. He's ready for the worm to come out so that he can get better and go back home.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Helping people may be hard but, when it's done right, it's exhilarating. In Southern Sudan for the New York Times, I'm Nicholas Kristof.
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[end credits]