Fighting Disease: Colombia
Eliminating Onchocerciasis From the Americas
River blindness is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of small black flies that breed in rapidly flowing streams and rivers. The disease causes severe itching, eye damage, and often blindness but is preventable through health education and distribution of the medicine Mectizan® (ivermectin, donated by Merck). Learn more about the Carter Center's campaign to eliminate river blindness from the Americas and to control it in Africa >
From 1996 and 2006, The Carter Center and its partners helped Colombians receive biannual doses of the curative and preventative drug Mectizan®, donated by Merck. Through significant hard work and dedication, the program and its partners achieved tremendous success — treatment coverage goals were exceeded for eight consecutive years and the cycle of transmission was broken.
As a result, in 2007, officials of the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA) announced that Colombia had become the first country in the world to interrupt river blindness transmission.
In 2011, Colombia completed all of its national post treatment surveillance activities and became the first country to request certification of onchocerciasis elimination from the Pan American Health Association/World Health Organization. If verified, Colombia could become the first country in the world to be certified as having eliminated river blindness.
In 2013, the Carter Center's Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, in partnership with the Universidad de La Sabana, began awarding two fellowships each year to journalists in Colombia. The program was established in support of Colombia's efforts to raise awareness of mental illnesses, which are among the most under-recognized health conditions in the nation often characterized by stigma and misinformation.
The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism currently provide stipends and expert training to journalists from the United States, Romania, and Colombia to report on topics related to mental health or mental illnesses. The primary goal of the fellowship program is to increase accurate reporting on mental health issues and decrease incorrect, stereotypical information.
The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism assist in-country partners to create a self-sustaining program that can continue into the future.