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The Carter Center at 30: Leader in Disease Eradication and Elimination

The Carter Center has become a global leader in the eradication and elimination of diseases, focusing efforts to build health and hope in some of the poorest and most isolated places on earth.


Ghanaian women take care of household chores, such as fetching water, without the threat of losing their sight due to trachoma. With assistance from The Carter Center, the country was able to declare that the painful eye disease was no longer a public health problem. (Photo: D. Hakes/The Carter Center)

Eradication campaigns aim to rid the earth of a disease altogether; elimination efforts attempt to abolish a disease in a specific geographic area, such as a country or region.

Based on the recommendation of the Carter Center's International Task Force for Disease Eradication, the Center currently fights four diseases that can be eradicated from earth or eliminated from certain areas-Guinea worm (eradication), river blindness (elimination from the Americas and some parts of Africa), lymphatic filariasis (elimination), and blinding trachoma (elimination). The Center also seeks to facilitate better control of malaria and schistosomiasis in targeted areas around the world.

Since 1986, The Center has spearheaded the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease, a painful and debilitating condition caused by a waterborne parasite. Through use of simple tools like health education and fine mesh filter cloths to strain infective larvae from drinking water, cases of Guinea worm disease have been reduced more than 99.9 percent since 1986, from 3.5 million to fewer than 1,100 in 2011.


A health worker in South Sudan shows a Guinea worm that has been extracted from a victim's leg. South Sudan is one of only a handful of countries still fighting Guinea worm disease. (Photo: L. Gubb/The Carter Center)

"Even though Guinea worm disease does not usually kill people, its effect on communities is devastating," said Dr. Donald R. Hopkins, vice president for the Center's health programs. "In the past, we saw entire villages unable to work or go to school because of a Guinea worm outbreak. That is why we must get rid of this disease."

With its partners, the Center also is eliminating river blindness from Latin America. Through health education and mass distribution of the medicine Mectizan,® donated by Merck, people in the region are no longer being blinded by the disease, which is caused by repeated bites of tiny black flies. Of the six countries that were endemic in 1996, four have stopped transmission of the disease.


Guatemalan schoolchildren whack a fly-shaped piñata, which serves as a reminder that river blindness is transmitted by the bites of tiny flies. In 2011, Guatemala announced it had stopped transmission of the disease. (Photo: P. DiCampo/The Carter Center)

In Ghana, Carter Center-led interventions have helped eliminate blinding trachoma, a bacterial eye disease that can be extremely painful in its latter stages. And recent Carter Center work in Nigeria has shown it is possible to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic disease that causes painful and severe swelling, resulting in social stigma for victims.


In Nigeria, The Carter Center has shown that it is possible to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, a disease that causes gross and irreversible swelling. (Photo: E. Staub/The Carter Center)


"We are helping families around the world fulfill their potential and lead healthier lives, free from the threat of these diseases," Dr. Hopkins said.

30th Anniversery

Four Diseases
The Carter Center currently fights four diseases that can be eradicated from earth or eliminatedfrom certain areas: 
Guinea worm (eradication),river blindness (elimination from the Americas and some parts of Africa), lymphatic filariasis(elimination), and blinding trachoma(elimination).

Read more:
"The Allure of Eradication," by Carter Center Health Programs Vice President Donald R. Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H. (PDF)

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