Evolution has shaped the female Guinea-worm's behaviour to facilitate the continuation of her life cycle. If the skin above the lurking female gets wet, then she burrows rapidly to the surface and sheds thousands of eggs into the water in the hope that some of them will encounter a copepod. This sensitivity to water can be used to start a cure: wrap the leg in a wet towel then when the end of the worm breaks the skin surface you can seize it and e v e r s o s l o w l y draw the whole worm out. As she can grew to 80cm in length, this pulling can take several days. You wrap your winnings round a twig or pencil to stop the whole thing slithering back into the flesh. If you pull too hard then the bloody worm breaks and you have a serious case of septicaemia on your blistered legs. I'm sure that there were experts at these delicate extractions in many sub-Saharan villages.
I use the past tense advisedly, because at more or less the same time I was reading about Guinea-worms in Boston, retiring President Jimmy Carter was thinking about what he was going to do for the rest of his life. His existential solution was to endow the Carter Centre on some derelict urban blight in Atlanta, Georgia. This institution was established with the brief "to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering". Grand for a mission statement but What to do next in detail?
- First build a complex of offices and auditoria, a library and museum, all set in lovely parkland,
- Then appoint a Board of Trustees packed with the great and the good and capable of networking their way to solutions.
- Have the Board appoint Effectives to do committee work and decide how the substantial, but not infinite, endowment can be most effectively leveraged.
- Launch some specific projects: preferably those that will yield tangible results within the life time of the soon to be ex-President.
- It's also important to have projects that can be written up in a headline + 600 words by the Washington Post.