Guinea worm, a parasitic disease that affected more than 3 million people less than 30 years ago, is now found in only four African countries, with the number of cases dwindling to 542 in 2012, according to an annual report by the Carter Center.

Since 1986 the center has led an international effort to eradicate the disease and now says that goal is within reach. Most of the remaining cases (521) are reported in South Sudan, while Chad (10), Mali (7) and Ethiopia (4) look to soon snuff out the disease completely. 

Wiping out the last cases requires the most expense and effort, but Carter Center leaders say they must persist until the end. 

“If we leave even one case behind, this terrible disease can return to inflict immense suffering on some of the world’s most neglected people and communities,” said Donald Hopkins, Carter Center vice president of health programs, in a news release. 

Empowering some of the world’s hardest-to-reach communities through education has been key to the effort, which has helped GhanaNigeria and Niger halt transmission in the past two years. 

“We are so close and I look forward to personally announcing that we have stopped transmission of Guinea worm disease worldwide,” said former  President Jimmy Carter, 88, in a statement. 

Click here to learn more about the center’s work on Guinea worm. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...