Fighting Disease: Ethiopia
Eliminating River Blindness
Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, was first reported in southwestern regions of Ethiopia in 1939, while the northwestern part of the country was recognized to be endemic in the 1970s.
In 2000, The Carter Center was invited to help implement the national plan, created by the Ethiopian government, to fight onchocerciasis. The Center's River Blindness Elimination Program continues to work in partnership with Ethiopia's Ministry of Health, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Lions of Ethiopia, and a consortium of international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private companies.
The Carter Center and the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) support the National Onchocerciasis Task Force, established by Ethiopia's Ministry of Health, in its efforts to distribute Mectizan® (donated by Merck) in endemic communities. Since 2009, more than 3 million people have been treated annually in more than 14,300 targeted villages in the Carter Center-assisted zones, comprising nearly 70 percent of all treatments given in Ethiopia. These treatments are distributed by more than 40,000 trained community volunteers, who also provide health education in the villages treated.
Recently, the Ethiopia Federal Ministry of Health, with encouragement from The Carter Center, declared a policy to eliminate onchocerciasis. The Carter Center, in response, plans to increase the frequency of treatment from annually to semi-annually.
The Carter Center's activities in Ethiopia have expanded to address multiple diseases simultaneously. For example, with support from GlaxoSmithKline, The Carter Center helped the Ethiopia Ministry of Health launch a lymphatic filariasis elimination program in the Gambella Region. The first of its kind in Ethiopia, the program has administered more than 235,000 combined Mectizan/albendazole treatments for lymphatic filariasis elimination in onchocerciasis-endemic areas.