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Carter Center Celebrates 500 Millionth Dose of Hope

  • A local resident in Ethiopia holds an adult dose of the drug Zithromax ® (azithromycin), distributed by Pfizer Inc. The antibiotic is used to treat trachoma, a preventable infectious disease that often leads to blindness. (Photo: The Carter Center/P. Emerson)

  • A little girl in Guatemala takes a dose of Mectizan while her family watches. River blindness was first identified in Guatemala by Dr. Rodolfo Robles in 1915. In 2016, the World Health Organization verified that the country had eliminated the disease. (Photo: The Carter Center/P. DiCampo)

  • The Luka family of Amper, Nigeria, received medication during a Carter Center-led effort to target multiple diseases simultaneously: onchocerciasis (river blindness), lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and several kinds of intestinal worms. (Photo: The Carter Center/T. Saater)

  • In Chiapas, Mexico, the community of Jose Maria Morelos holds a celebration and gathering in honor of a visit by health brigade workers. A volunteer health worker dressed as a bottle of Mectizan, the donated Merck product, leads a parade. (Photo: The Carter Center/E. Staub)

  • A local community health worker in Ethiopia pours a dose of Zithromax (azithromycin, donated by Pfizer) antibiotic syrup. The Carter Center relies on skillful local volunteers to provide the labor for mass drug distributions. (Photo: The Carter Center/P. Emerson)

  • A Yanomami girl in Brazil takes a vision test. Isolated, remote areas where the Yanomami live along the Amazon River in Brazil and Venezuela are the last stronghold of river blindness in Latin America. (Photo: The Carter Center)

  • A mother and daughter wait with neighbors to receive medicine at a health clinic in North Gondar, Ethiopia. Trachoma often passes from children to mothers, but twice-yearly azithromycin can stop the blinding disease. (Photo: The Carter Center/P. Rohe)

Carter Center-supported countries in 2016 surpassed 500 million doses of medication distributed since 1996 to fight neglected tropical diseases.

“Half a billion is an amazing milestone, and it’s well worth celebrating,” said Dr. Frank Richards, who heads up the Center's programs to combat river blindness, schistosomiasis, and lymphatic filariasis. “Even more worth celebrating is the impact that we are having from those treatments. You can’t begin to calculate the good that’s been done.”

Kelly Callahan, director of the Center's Trachoma Control Program, agreed, saying the milestone symbolizes the Carter Center's core values:

“It’s not about the number,” she said. "It’s about helping. It’s about caring. It’s about worrying about people and their quality of life. … It’s about people working together to ensure that we all strive for a better world."

What does it take to get half a billion doses into the hands (and mouths) of people in remote, rural places in Africa and Latin America?

It takes Carter Center staff. We have close to 1,000 staff members across multiple continents coordinating the distribution of remedies and preventative treatments for a set of diseases that are ignored or overlooked. The Carter Center provides training and materials that empower local people to solve their own challenges.

It takes commitment from federal ministries of health. The Carter Center only goes where it's invited. Governments decide to make their citizens' health a priority and work with The Carter Center to create effective programs and support them by providing supplemental resources and personnel.

It takes community volunteers. Regular folks who care about their communities come out by the thousands, time and time again, to help ensure their neighbors receive the medications that will alleviate suffering and prevent disease in future generations. Over 300,000 volunteers are involved in Carter Center assisted efforts.

It takes generous corporate partners. A number of companies — Merck, Pfizer, BASF, Johnson & Johnson, Vestergaard, Clarke, and Abbott — have made long-term commitments to provide medications, filters, insecticide-treated bednets, laboratory equipment and other products essential to our work.

And it takes trust. The only way these programs can work is if millions of individuals place their trust in partnerships. The Carter Center values its role as a good partner in this important work to help save and improve the lives of others.