Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Visits Ethiopia to Address New Malaria Initiative; Lauds Country's Progress in River Blindness, Trachoma Control, Public Health Training

AFETA, Ethiopia… Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter distributed long-lasting insecticide-impregnated bed nets today in Afeta, a community of 7,500 people in the Jimma zone. The symbolic action was part of the Carter Center's new malaria control initiative in Ethiopia, the largest and most populous country in the Horn of Africa. Malaria is Ethiopia's single largest cause of death.

"Malaria preys on Ethiopia's youth, destroying lives and jeopardizing the country's future," said President Carter. "It is our goal to help provide long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, free of charge, to all members of at-risk communities to help put a stop to the needless deaths caused by this mosquito-transmitted disease."

To help the Ethiopia Ministry of Health and its partners in the goal to protect all 50 million Ethiopians at risk for malaria with long-lasting insecticide-treated nets by July 2007, The Carter Center has purchased 3 million bed nets to contribute to the 20 million bed nets needed by the country. The Center will assist in net distribution and health education to help protect 18 million men, women, and children in more than 100 districts (woredas) and several hundred malarious localities called Kebeles. Distribution of these long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets began in January. Using the same community-based networks already established for Ethiopia's river blindness and trachoma control programs, The Carter Center will expand its support for health work in the country to include malaria control initiatives.

In the southwest region of the country, bed net distribution for malaria control will be combined with the country's river blindness program such as in the village of Afeta. In the Amhara region, bed net distribution and health education will be coupled with trachoma control initiatives. It is estimated that the national bed net program could save 60,000 to 100,000 lives per year in Ethiopia.

The coffee-growing community of Afeta has long been plagued with onchocerciasis also called river blindness, a parasitic disease transmitted by the bites of black flies found near fast-flowing rivers. The debilitating disease causes severe itching, skin rashes, and eye damage, sometimes leaving sufferers unable to work and stigmatized within their own communities. Currently, it is estimated that 12.4 million persons are at risk of river blindness. The skin and eye disease associated with the infection can be prevented and symptoms reduced through an annual dose of the drug Mectizan®, donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

The Carter Center has been a partner with the Ministry of Health in the fight against river blindness since 2000, and now works in eight of the 10 affected zones in the country to annually distribute the medicine Mectizan®. Today, in partnership with the Lions Clubs International and the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control, The Carter Center helps provide drug treatment and health education every year to more than 2.5 million Ethiopians at risk for river blindness.

The Carter Center's work in Ethiopia has been extremely perse, involving other disease control and eradication programs, agriculture and food security development, conflict mediation, election monitoring, and the promotion of human rights and health education. Yesterday, President Carter attended the opening meeting of the Ethiopian Public Health Training Initiative's Replication Conference in Addis Ababa. The conference, the first of its kind, was held to illustrate the outstanding effect the program has had in helping Ethiopia meet the growing need for trained health care workers in the country.

In 1991, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi invited former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to work with his ministries of health and education to help train health care personnel for the East African country. In 1997 the Ethiopia Public Health Training Initiative was launched. Working with seven Ethiopian universities, the Ethiopia Public Health Training Initiative is pairing Ethiopian teaching staff with international experts to develop curricula and learning materials for health promotion based on local experience. Teachers and professors are using these materials to train public health students, who, in turn, train and manage community health workers, building a community health infrastructure to improve health outcomes and access to care.


Bettina Malone, US Embassy, Addis
Telephone: (251) 11-517-4000
Cell Phone: (251) 0911-23-71-61
Fax: (251) 011-124-2454

Emily Staub, The Carter Center
Atlanta Office: 404-420-5126


Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will call international attention to health needs among impoverished communities in Ghana, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, when he leads a delegation of senior-level Carter Center officials to Africa on Feb. 6-16.

The Carter Center celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2007. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has made tremendous contribution to improving life and alleviating human suffering in more than 65 countries around the world by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. 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.

The Carter Center: At Work in Ethiopia

Learn more about the Carter Center's Health Programs, including River BlindnessTrachoma Control, and Ethiopia Public Health Training.