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100&Change: Eliminating River Blindness in Nigeria

  • The Carter Center's Frank Richards examines a man in Amakohia village, Imo state, Nigeria, for river blindness, a parasitic infection that can cause intense itching, skin discoloration, rashes, and eye disease. The Center’s 100&Change proposal aims to eliminate this disease in Nigeria. Read "Frank Richards is a Man on a Mission" »


The Carter Center is one of eight semi-finalists in the MacArthur Foundation competition for a $100 million grant to fund a single proposal that promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time. The Carter Center proposes to eliminate river blindness disease from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and the one most endemic for this debilitating disease.

The Problem

River blindness affects an estimated 32.7 million people worldwide. Caused by a worm parasite that spreads via the bite of a black fly, the disease is most endemic in Nigeria. With its dense and growing population, roughly 50 million people in 40,000 communities in Nigeria are infected with or at risk of the disease.

River blindness causes devastating socio-economic repercussions in Africa, resulting in food insecurity, lack of education for children who must care for blinded parents, intergenerational poverty, and social stigma.

The Solution

The Carter Center will eliminate transmission of river blindness disease in Nigeria, creating a model for the rest of Africa and the world.

In partnership with the Ministry of Health and local NGOs, the Center will work through community-directed distribution systems to administer the drug ivermectin once or twice per year. This medicine is proven to stop transmission of the condition.

The program will train community-level volunteers in the appropriate dosing and administration of the drug and to provide health education to families and neighbors, creating a sustainable, rudimentary healthcare infrastructure in remote communities.

Similar Carter Center projects have eliminated river blindness from four countries in the Americas and from parts of Uganda and Sudan. This project will bring these best practices to scale across Nigeria, demonstrating that eliminating river blindness is possible in even the largest and most challenging environments.

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