NGWA HEALTH FOUNDATION INC. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help alleviate the suffering of the poor in Africa particularly in Nigeria. The organization has played substantial role in providing medical treatment for all sorts of diseases. Nine out of ten people living in the depressed areas of Africa south of the Sahara still have nothing else to drink but meagre quantities of impure water, thus exposing themselves to serious diseases such as the appalling dracunculiasis.
This parasitic disease causes dreadful suffering and disability among the world’s most deprived people. The disease reappears each year during the agricultural season, handicapping farmers, mothers and schoolchildren already weighed down by harsh living conditions and often existing just above survival level. Families affected by the disease experience great loss: their food stocks and savings gradually dwindle away, they are no longer able to participate in vaccination campaigns and the children’s schooling increasingly suffers. Gradually worn down by penury, these underprivileged people find themselves trapped in a vicious circle of poverty and disease.
Dracunculiasis is a disease caused by the parasitic worm Dracunculus medinensis or “Guinea worm”. This worm is the largest of the tissue parasite affecting human. The adult female, which carries about 3 million embryos, can measure 600 to 800 mm in length and 2 mm in diameter. The parasite migrates through the victim’s subcutaneous tissues causing severe pain especially when it occurs in the joints. The worm eventually emerges (from the feet in 90% of the cases), causing an intensely painful oedema, a blister and the an ulcer accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting.
Infected person try to relieve the burning sensation by immersing the infected part of their body in local water sources, usually ponds water. This also induce a contraction of the female worm at the base of the ulcer causing the sudden expulsion of hundreds of thousands of first stage larvae into the water. They move actively in the water and can live for a few days in water.
For further development, they need to be ingested by suitable species of voracious predatory crustacean, Cyclops or water fleas which measure 1 – 2 mm and widely abundant worldwide. In the cyclops, larvae develop to infective third-stage in 14 days at 26°C.
When a person drink contaminated water from ponds or shallow open wells, the cyclops is dissolved by the gastric acid of the stomach and the larvae are released and migrate through the intestinal wall. After 100 days, the male and female meet and mate. The male become encapsulated and die in the tissues while the female move down the muscle planes. After about one year of the infection, the female worm with the uterus filled with larvae, emerges usually from the feet repeating the life cycle.
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