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Guinea Worm Eradication Program Gets $25 Million Challenge Grant From Gates Foundation

CONTACT: Emily Howard Staub
Phone: 1-404-420-5126

Carter Center's Guinea Worm Eradicaton Program Gets $25 Million Boost From A Gates Foundation Challenge Grant; Canada And The Hilton Foundation Respond Generously

ACCRA, GHANA…The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged US$25 million to the Carter Center's fight to eradicate the remaining cases of Guinea worm disease worldwide. The grant includes an initial $5 million contribution and challenges other donors to provide an additional $20 million, of which of the Gates Foundation will match one-to-one. Already, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation have responded to the challenge by pledging $5 million and $1 million, respectively, joining with the Center and the Gates Foundation to help make Guinea worm the first parasitic disease to be eradicated.

Today, through efforts of The Carter Center and its partners, Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) has been reduced by more than 99.5 percent: from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986 to approximately 15,500 cases reported in 2004. Guinea worm is a water-borne, parasitic disease contracted when contaminated water is consumed. People with the disease are often unable to go to school, farm their crops, or do other work, resulting in serious economic losses and increased poverty. The disease can be controlled through public health measures such as treating drinking water and educating people who are infected to take precautions that prevent transmission. It will be the first disease to be eradicated without medicines or vaccines.

"Through their support, the Gates Foundation, CIDA, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation are demonstrating international leadership in the fight against unnecessary suffering in the developing world," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "The last cases of Guinea worm disease are the most crucial, difficult, and expensive to contain. The new peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan and the recent Gates Foundation challenge grant will help us secure the remaining access and resources needed to finish the job. It will be a historic moment when, working together, the global community eradicates this 3,000-year-old disease."

The Gates Foundation's grant to support Guinea worm eradication totals $25 million. The foundation will provide an initial contribution of $5 million this year, and will match other donor contributions one-to-one up to $5 million each year for the next four years. Once the challenge has been met, a total of $45 million will have been raised from the Gates Foundation and other donors for the eradication effort.

"Eradicating Guinea worm disease will improve the lives of millions for generations to come," said Regina Rabinovich, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Gates Foundation's Infectious Diseases program. "We're pleased to support The Carter Center, whose success in fighting Guinea worm demonstrates the power of international collaboration to solve the health problems facing developing countries."

The Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, is one of the first to respond to the challenge with a grant of $5 million over five years. Through its programs, CIDA works to promote sustainable development in the poorest countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, while joining with partners worldwide to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. CIDA has supported the Center's efforts to wage peace and fight disease in Africa and the Americas since 1996.

"Canada has a strong history of support for global efforts to improve the health of the world's citizens," said Donald J. Bobiash, high commissioner of Canada to Ghana. "Ridding the world of Guinea worm is within our grasp. We know that healthy people are absolutely key to building a better world for all. Together, we will make a difference."

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation also has responded to the challenge, providing $1 million in matching funds for the Guinea worm eradication effort. As intended by Conrad Hilton, the Hilton Foundation works to alleviate the suffering of the world's most disadvantaged, with an emphasis on children. For 14 years, the Hilton Foundation has partnered with the Center to improve health throughout Africa, particularly Guinea worm eradication and the prevention and control of blinding trachoma.

"The Hilton Foundation is honored to be part of a positive effort to improve the lives of the most forgotten people," said Steven M. Hilton, president, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.


The Gates Foundation challenge grant was announced on Tuesday, April 5, during the opening ceremony of the 10th annual International Guinea Worm Eradication Program Managers' Meeting, April 5-7, 2005, in Accra. Hosted by Ghana, the event is being co-sponsored by the Government of Ghana, The Carter Center, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization.

Former Nigeria Head of State General Yakubu Gowon is in attendance. African ministers, ambassadors, nongovernmental organizations, and leaders and experts worldwide convene annually at the international conference on the eradication of Guinea worm disease to review the status of eradication efforts during the previous year and solidify strategies for the current year.

Media interested in covering the meeting or interviewing experts are asked to contact Emily Staub. Copy of the meeting schedule is available upon request.


With less than a fraction of 1 percent of the disease remaining, Guinea worm is poised to be the next disease eradicated in human history. The disease is contracted when people consume stagnant water, contaminated with microscopic water fleas carrying infective larvae. Inside a human's abdomen, the larvae mature and grow, with some reaching 3 feet in length. After a year, the worm slowly emerges through a painful blister in the skin, usually on the lower limbs. In highly endemic areas, infected people usually have mor than one Guinea worm, in some cases dozens, emerging at once.

The Carter Center and its partners help teach people about the origin of the disease and how to prevent it, provide cloth filters and pipe filters to make water safe for drinking, and treat the symptoms and pain associated with the disease. Since the Center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program began in 1986, nine of the 20 endemic countries have broken transmission, and five of the remaining 11 endemic countries reported fewer than 100 cases in 2004. Guinea worm remains only in West Africa and Sudan.

Learn more about the Carter Center's fight against Guinea worm disease.



The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production.

The Government of Canada, through theCanadian International Development Agency, helps to reduce poverty in more than 100 developing countries around the world. CIDA has been a strong supporter of The Carter Center for almost 10 years, joining our efforts in Africa to fight Guinea worm disease and resolve conflicts and in the Americas to improve democracy and promote development cooperation.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundationpromotes the importance of safe water, sanitation, and health education at the grassroots level. Since 1991, the foundation has partnered with The Carter Center in Africa to eradicate Guinea worm disease and control blinding trachoma.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationworks to promote greater equity in four areas: global health, education, public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington state and Oregon. The Seattle-based foundation joins local, national, and international partners to ensure that advances in these areas reach those who need them most. The foundation is led by Bill Gates's father, William H. Gates Sr., and Patty Stonesifer.

Read Carter Center Guinea Worm Program Meets $45 Million Gates Challenge Early >>

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