All around Juba, the capital city of southern Sudan, there are banners proclaiming, "Let's work together to make South Sudan free of guinea worm disease so we can prepare for the referendum on self-determination."
David read the banner and started laughing but his driver and language assistant, after chuckling with him to humor him, sobered up and told him it was very serious. "Guinea worm disease is terrible," they told him. They told him that worms get in your body and start eating your internal organs--"your body like a rotten apple"--and the only way to get them out is to catch a bit of one protruding out of your skin and to slowly and oh-so-carefully wind it around a stick, pulling it out bit by bit, day by day. You have to tie the stick with the worm wrapped around it to the affected limb, so we can wind a little more each day. "Oh, yeah," said one of his Ugandan employees. "We have that in Uganda, too." At first David thought they were teasing him, but they were very serious.
"What if the worm breaks off while you're winding it out?" David asked.
"Oh, very, very bad. Then you die."
"The worm dies?"
"No, you die."