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Switzerland, England, Norway, The Netherlands, Mali

By Jimmy Carter

During the past two weeks, we have visited the World Health Organization in Geneva; public officials and potential private donors in London, Oslo, and The Hague; and Bamako, Mali, for an assessment of our health and agriculture programs in Africa.

At WHO, we met with Jim Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, Dr. Gro Brundtland, director of WHO, and others who are important partners in all our programs concerning Guinea worm, river blindness, elephantiasis, trachoma, and schistosomiasis. They promised to meet several of our requests, including approval of the joint use of Merck's Mectizan and Smith-Kline-Beecham's albendazole for the treatment of lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). We were all pleased with the sessions.

The financial highlight of our trip came during an informal evening with Michael and Susi Ashcroft in London. The Ashcrofts pledged $5 million over a three-year period and also offered additional assistance for special program needs. They also hosted a dinner for us with a few of their interested friends. The U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, Philip Lader, hosted a reception and supper for about 50 prominent people, and we gave them a briefing on our Center's work.

In Norway (our most generous country partner for years), we had meals and analysis of our work with the prime minister, the foreign minister, and the director of their foreign aid programs. We did the same thing with the minister of foreign assistance in the Netherlands, and met with CEOs of Shell Oil (major investments in Nigeria) and Philips Electronics, who have recently moved their U.S. headquarters to Atlanta and are sponsors of the new basketball-ice hockey center. Both companies want to help us.

In Mali, we met with the Sasakawa group and many others and were pleased with the progress of agricultural projects in 12 African nations. The most exciting report is from Ethiopia, where the government now has 4 million farmers following our Global 2000 techniques. Mali had 17,700 cases of Guinea worm when we first went there, and so far have only 252 cases reported this year. We have a good chance for eradication next year in almost all countries except Sudan and Nigeria.

We also initiated a trachoma control program in Mali, which will soon be extended to six other countries. This disease is the number one cause of preventable blindness (second to cataracts in total cases) and results from flies and filth around the eyes, especially of children. Highly contagious, it is transmitted by touch. The eyelids turn inward with infection, and lashes cut the cornea to destroy sight. Face and hand washing, sanitation, simple surgery to turn the eyelids outward again, and treatment with a Pfizer medicine can remedy it. The Hilton Foundation has pledged $13.6 million over 10 years for trachoma, and Lions Clubs $16.5 million over five years for trachoma and river blindness control efforts by The Carter Center.

After visiting agriculture and trachoma villages, we returned home, excited all during the trip about the Braves but still cautious.

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