Carter Center Challenges Donors to Help Eradicate Guinea Worm Disease


NEW YORK —The Carter Center Board of Trustees announced it is launching a $40 million fundraising campaign, including a $20 million Carter Center Challenge Fund, toward the eradication of Guinea worm disease, and Alwaleed Philanthropies, a global philanthropic foundation, said it would invest the first $1 million in matching support.

The announcements were made Thursday morning at a meeting convened by Jason Carter, chair of the Atlanta-based Carter Center Board of Trustees, and World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who worked on eliminating Guinea worm disease in Ethiopia when he was that country’s health minister.

The Carter Center Challenge Fund will match, dollar for dollar, donations to the Guinea Worm Eradication Program, up to $10 million per year in 2019 and 2020, for a total of $20 million in matching funds.

Her Royal Highness Princess Lamia Bint Majed Saud Al Saud, secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies, announced an investment of $1 million to kick-start the Carter Center Challenge Fund. Alwaleed Philanthropies has partnered with The Carter Center on several other health programs, including the elimination of river blindness.

“Great progress has been made to wipe out Guinea worm disease, and we need to continue to work together to eradicate this painful disease in every country throughout the world,” said Princess Lamia, who is known for her active philanthropy. “Alwaleed Philanthropies’ partnership with The Carter Center over the last 16 years has successfully supported a number of health and community initiatives, and we are delighted to launch this new campaign together.”

The Carter Center, working with core partners including the WHO, has led the global campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease since 1986, when an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries were infected with the often meter-long worms that slowly and painfully erupt from wounds in the skin. As of Aug. 31, 36 provisional cases had been reported in 2019.

“Our successes are a testament to the fierce persistence of people on the front lines and our committed partners,” Jason Carter said. “We are grateful for every ally standing with us as we seek to eradicate the first parasitic disease in human history.”

On hand for Thursday’s announcements and meeting were Ambassador (ret.) Mary Ann Peters, chief executive officer, The Carter Center; Dr. Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, director of Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, WHO; moderator Dr. Mark Siddall, American Museum of Natural History; Dr. Michel Hamala Sidibé, minister of health and social affairs, Mali; Dr. Mona Hammami, senior director of the Office of Strategic Affairs of the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Nick Dyer, director-general for Economic Development and International (UK); Trevor Mundel, president of global health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Dean Sienko, vice president-health, The Carter Center; Adam Weiss, director, Guinea Worm Eradication Program, The Carter Center; Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, deputy director-general, WHO; Dr. Ren Minghui, assistant director-general, universal health coverage, communicable and noncommunicable diseases, WHO; and representatives of many other key partner organizations.

About Guinea worm disease
Considered a neglected tropical disease, Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) is contracted when water infected with Guinea worm larvae is consumed. About a year later, a meter-long female worm slowly emerges through a painful blister in the skin. Guinea worm disease can incapacitate a person for weeks, hampering one’s ability to work, grow food, or attend school.

“One of the Carter Center’s principal goals is to reduce human suffering. That’s why we’ve been doing this for 33 years, and why we will continue doing this until Guinea worm is eradicated,” said Adam Weiss, Guinea Worm Eradication Program director.

Only one human disease has ever been eradicated: smallpox, in 1980 after a years-long global vaccination campaign. Transmission of Guinea worm can be interrupted only through behavior modification – the careful filtering of all drinking water, the treatment of targeted water sources with a mild larvicide, and vigilance to keep infected people from re-contaminating water sources.

To date, the WHO has certified 187 member states as free of transmission of Guinea worm disease, including 16 that were formerly endemic.

From Jan. 1 through Aug. 31 this year, 36 provisional human cases of Guinea worm disease have been reported, most of them in Chad. About 1,440 infections have been reported in animals, mostly domestic dogs in Chad. The animal infections are the latest challenge facing the program.

“The final mile is always the most difficult,” said Dr. Donald R. Hopkins, the Carter Center’s special advisor for Guinea worm eradication. “The last Guinea worm cases are in hard-to-reach, remote locations or areas that are insecure; that’s not a coincidence.”

Hopkins, a veteran of several disease elimination campaigns during his four-decade public health career, expressed confidence in the ultimate success of the Guinea Worm Eradication Program.

“Together, national ministries of health, The Carter Center, and our partners have successfully addressed unexpected developments throughout this campaign,” he said, “and we will overcome any new challenges as well.”

The Carter Center has led the international Guinea Worm Eradication Program since 1986 and works closely with national programs, the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and many other partners. The Carter Center provides technical and financial assistance to national Guinea worm eradication programs to help interrupt transmission of the disease. When transmission is interrupted, the Center provides continued assistance in surveillance and helps countries prepare for official evaluation by the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (ICCDE) and certification by the WHO. The CDC provides technical assistance and verifies that worm specimens truly are Guinea worms.

The presence of Guinea worm disease in an area usually indicates abject poverty, including lack of safe drinking water; UNICEF mainly assists countries by helping governments provide safe sources of drinking water to priority areas identified by the national Guinea worm eradication programs. The WHO is the only organization that can officially certify the elimination or eradication of any disease.

Many generous foundations, corporations, governments, and individuals have made the Carter Center's work to eradicate Guinea worm disease possible, including major support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID); Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) - United Kingdom; the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development; and the Federal Republic of Germany. Major support from the United Arab Emirates began with a commitment from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and has continued with the support of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The governments of Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Oman, Qatar, and Finland have provided prior support, as have The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the OPEC Fund for International Development. The DuPont Corporation and Precision Fabrics Group donated nylon filter cloth early in the campaign; Vestergaard's LifeStraw® donated pipe and household cloth filters in recent years. ABATE® larvicide (temephos) has been donated for many years by BASF. Key implementing partners include the ministries of health in endemic countries, The Carter Center, WHO, CDC, and UNICEF.

Contact: Emily Staub,, (404) 420-5126


About Alwaleed Philanthropies
Alwaleed Philanthropies supports and initiates projects in 189 countries, regardless of the gender, race or religion. Alwaleed Philanthropies collaborates with a range of philanthropic, government and educational organizations to combat poverty, empower women and youth, develop communities, provide disaster relief and create cultural understanding through education. Together with partners around the world, Alwaleed Philanthropies builds bridges for a more compassionate, tolerant and accepting world.

The Carter Center
"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.