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Carter Center Guinea Worm Program Meets $45 Million Gates Challenge Early

For Immediate Release


Emily Staub

Telephone: (404) 420-5126


ATLANTA... The Carter Center and its partners are another step closer to eradicating Guinea worm disease, a horrific and debilitating parasitic infection, thanks to the completion of a challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which leveraged a total of $45 million with the support of more than 500 partners in a record two years.

In April 2005, the Gates Foundation gave the Center $5 million outright and pledged to match one-to-one all contributions to the Guinea worm eradication campaign up to $20 million over four years. Carter Center donors and partners completed the challenge in just two years.

"With the early completion of the challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carter Center donors and partners have shown their commitment to eliminating the last cases of Guinea worm disease in the world," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Carter Center founder. We have come so close to our eradication goal. People in rural forgotten communities are counting on a permanent end to their suffering."

It is estimated that an additional $35 million needs to be raised to complete the eradication of Guinea worm disease.

Foundations, corporations, governments, and individuals responded to the challenge, including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Leventis Foundation, the Woodbury Foundation, the Franklin Mint, the American Red Cross, YKK Corporation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID, BASF, World Air Holdings, Inc./North American Airlines passengers, and the governments of Canada, Japan, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, and Saudi Arabia with the final contribution to be matched donated by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Today, coalition partners, in collaboration with thousands of dedicated community health workers, continue to intensify efforts to fight the last fraction of 1 percent of Guinea worm disease. Since 1986, Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) has been reduced from an estimated 3.5 million cases to 25,217 cases reported in 2006 in nine countries, all in Africa. Together, Sudan and Ghana shoulder 98 percent of the world's remaining cases. In 2006, fewer than 500 cases were reported in the other seven endemic countries, and five of those countries reported fewer than 30 cases each.

In the quest to eradicate a disease, the last cases are the most difficult and expensive to eliminate. Although victims become few and far between, entire countries must still be tightly monitored to prevent outbreaks and setbacks. In the history of mankind, only smallpox has been eradicated; today two diseases, Guinea worm and polio, teeter on the brink of extinction.

A parasitic water-borne disease, Guinea worm is transmitted only by drinking contaminated water. The presence of Guinea worm disease in a geographic area indicates abject poverty, including the absence of safe drinking water. People with the disease are often unable to go to school, farm, or do other work, resulting in serious economic losses and increased poverty. The disease can be controlled through simple measures such as filtering all drinking water and educating people who are infected to take precautions to prevent transmission. Guinea worm will be the first disease to be eradicated without medicines or vaccines.

To date, the Guinea worm eradication campaign has raised and invested an estimated $225 million. It is anticipated that an additional $35 million is needed over the next three years to fully eliminate Guinea worm disease in the nine remaining endemic countries. The two geographic areas of concern remain northern Ghana and southern Sudan.

After a 2005 peace agreement ended a more than 20-year civil war in Sudan, health workers now can reach previously inaccessible areas of the country. Additional funding for the Guinea worm eradication campaign will help expand operations to increase case containment and prevention in this desperate area.

In addition, funding will help countries bordering Sudan and Ghana maintain intensive surveillance to prevent the importation and spread of Guinea worm from areas with many cases to locations currently free of disease. It is essential to maintain vast surveillance at the highest levels of readiness to detect and contain the last few cases of the disease.


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."

The Carter Center celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2007. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 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 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.

Read Guinea Worm Eradication Program Gets $25 Million Challenge Grant From Gates Foundation

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