"I take the guinea worm personally at this point because I think we are very, very close," says Makoy Samuel Yibi, the National Director of South Sudan’s Guinea worm eradication programme.

The total number of Guinea worm cases was down to 148 at the end of 2013 according the The Carter Center. This is a 99.9% drop from the three and a half million cases recorded in 1986.

The programme focuses on four tools to prevent transmission of the disease; early detection, daily bandaging of wounds where the worm exits the body, preventing the patient from contaminating water sources with Guinea worm larvae and ensuring that the patient is identified and monitored by the Guinea worm eradication programme. 

Yibi emphasis that even as they move closer and closer to eradication, the team cannot afford to lose momentum as the disease regresses to the most difficult to reach communities.

"As the number of cases goes down, the number of endemic villages goes down. The disease seems to have already regressed now to the most difficult areas and the price tag to detect a case and contain everyone is probably multiplied by 10 times than when we started. Any setback is going to be extremely expensive. Not that only it is expensive but it takes a toll on people’s morale and especially the team that have been working day and night. That's why the whole team definitely believes that failure is not an option."

Yibi is one of many health heroes profiled on Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health.

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health will air on Al Jazeera in 2014.

Source: Al Jazeera