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Lions Clubs International Foundation

Lions Clubs International Foundation provides additional support for the control and elimination of blinding diseases in Africa and the Americas

Featured March 2010.

"I have a feeling of gratitude for what Lions do throughout the world. Lions have changed my life. But I think even more gratifying to me is to go into a village in Africa or Latin America and see people that have suffered all their lives and know that they will never again go blind. "
– Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

The Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is a valued partner of The Carter Center in the fight to prevent disease and build hope in impoverished communities. For more than a decade, the Foundation's commitment to end preventable blindness has led them to provide major support to The Carter Center-assisted River Blindness Program in Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and the Americas, and to the Center's Trachoma Control Program in Ethiopia and Sudan. Most recently, the Foundation committed four new grants to the Center's health programs, including first-time grants for Mali and Niger, furthering the two organizations' long-term collaboration in the provision of sight-saving interventions to combat these two diseases, now reaching a total of 13 countries in Africa and the Americas.

Through service projects and the financial assistance of the Foundation, Lions Clubs International seeks to provide vision for all, support youth, and give long-term support for disaster relief in more than 200 countries worldwide. Their collaboration goes beyond financial support, with local Lions in partner countries providing vital 'hands-on' aid in advocacy, volunteering, and technical assistance.

A recent pledge of $1,133,834 was made to support the Center's Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA), which aims to eliminate river blindness in the Western Hemisphere by 2015. It should be further noted that this new award is in addition to an ongoing LCIF grant to OEPA for $2 million. Both the Foundation and the local Lions clubs of the six endemic countries are consistent supporters of the public-private coalition that makes up the OEPA initiative.

LCIF also lends its support to multiple sight-saving initiatives in Africa. The remaining three recent pledges are to the Center's Trachoma Control Program, which operates in six African countries with the goal of eliminating this debilitating disease from endemic communities, helping to relieve the burden of blindness in some of the world's poorest areas.

A recent donation of $641,280 for one year of trachoma control in Ethiopia represents the latest development in the long-standing partnership between Lions and The Carter Center. The two organizations have collaborated since 1999 to eliminate blinding trachoma in Ethiopia, the country which is burdened with the largest share of the worlds' trachoma cases. The new funds will ensure that the SAFE strategy, endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most effective way to fight trachoma, will be fully implemented in the Amhara region, the current focus of the Center's program. The SAFE strategy comprises four vital elements in controlling trachoma: Surgery; Antibiotics; Facial cleanliness; and Environmental improvements.

LCIF has pledged $436,000 and $506,320 for four years of trachoma programs in Mali and Niger, respectively. These grants signal the beginning of active collaboration between LCIF and The Carter Center in these countries and primarily will support the expansion of the Center's trachoma surgery activities. With the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation's pledge to match financial support to The Carter Center for trachoma control in Mali and Niger, LCIF's grants will further increase financial support for these programs and contribute significantly towards the elimination of trachoma as a source of blindness in both countries.

River blindness and trachoma are debilitating illnesses which cause long-term suffering before eventually leading to blindness. Poor communities are disproportionately affected by these preventable diseases which impact not only the physical health of the individual, but also reduce the socio-economic capacity of a community, deepening the cycle of poverty. Thanks to the generous and sustained support of donors like Lions Clubs International, The Carter Center and its partners have made significant progress towards eliminating these diseases as public health threats and relieving the burden of illness from some of the world's most impoverished people.

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