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African Health Leaders Honor President Carter and The Carter Center for 'Pioneering' Efforts Against Neglected Diseases

Health officials from 11 African countries have honored former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and The Carter Center for their "pioneering contributions to eradicating neglected tropical diseases in Africa." The leadership award was presented to Carter Center CEO Dr. John Hardman and Dr. Donald Hopkins, vice president of health programs, on April 22 in a Washington, D.C., event sponsored by Global Health Progress and ONE.

"For nearly three decades, The Carter Center has helped Africans transform their own lives, using simple, cost-effective tools that build healthier futures," says Dr. Hardman. "We're very honored and grateful that African health leaders, many from nations where The Carter Center has worked, chose to celebrate the Center's achievements in this way."

Dr. Hardman commended African governments for their commitment to working with The Carter Center to combat neglected tropical diseases, including Guinea worm, trachoma, river blindness, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria.

This is the second award given by the delegation, which was in Washington to discuss Africa's health concerns with U.S. officials and is composed of senior health officials from Uganda, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, and Tanzania as well as representatives from the African Union. (Read more about the Carter Center's work around the world.) The first award was a posthumous honor for Congressman Tom Lantos.

While there is typically a nomination process, this year's delegation unanimously requested the award be given to The Carter Center.

"President Carter is a true leader and friend to the African nations," said Dr. Sam Zaramba, Uganda's Director General of Health Services, speaking on behalf of the delegation. "The partnership of his Carter Center with our governments and communities has ended the suffering many of our people experienced from the debilitating effects of Guinea worm. We are anxious to help make Guinea worm the next disease eradicated after smallpox and the first wiped out without a vaccine or medical treatment."

When The Carter Center spear-headed the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm in 1986, there were 3.5 million cases in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. Working together with thousands of community volunteers and the ministries of health in affected countries, the Guinea Worm Eradication Program has coordinated, engaged, and mobilized hundreds of partners, and incidence of Guinea worm disease has dropped by more than 99 percent. Today, fewer than 5,000 cases remain in six endemic countries-all in sub-Saharan Africa.(Read the press release "Guinea Worm Cases Hit All-Time Low: Carter Center, WHO, Gates Foundation, and U.K. Government Commit $55 Million Toward Ultimate Eradication Goal.")

Guinea worm eradication is considered one of the most cost-effective public health efforts due to its relatively simple intervention measures, such as health education, free cloth filter distribution, and BASF-donated ABATE® larvicide applications. To date, the Guinea worm eradication campaign has raised and invested an estimated $225 million in African communities.

"The Carter Center is not the main ingredient," Dr. Hopkins said, describing it, rather, as a "catalyst" working with African Ministries of Health and community groups on the ground.

The delegation was sponsored by Global Health Progress and organized by The Whitaker Group.

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A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Center has observed over 70 elections in nearly 30 countries. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

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Guinea Worm: Countdown to Zero (Run time 2:34)

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Photo Credit: Izwi Communications

Dr. Donald Hopkins (front), the Carter Center's vice president of Health Programs and Dr. John Hardman, Carter Center CEO, (rear)  thank a delegation of officials from 11 African nations who recognized The Carter Center on April 22, 2009 for its work combatting neglected diseases in Africa.

Learn more about the Carter Center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program

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Learn more about the Carter Center's programming around the world

"For nearly three decades, The Carter Center has helped Africans transform their own lives, using simple, cost-effective tools that build healthier futures. We're very honored and grateful that African health leaders, many from nations where The Carter Center has worked, chose to celebrate the Center's achievements in this way." 

– Dr. John Hardman, CEO, The Carter Center

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