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Guinea Worm Eradication and River Blindness Elimination Receive Major Boost with U.S. $1 Million Donation from OPEC Fund: Signing Ceremony Takes Place at The Carter Center

Emily Staub,

ATLANTA…Today, during a special ceremony in Atlanta, former U.S. President and Carter Center FounderJimmy Carter received on behalf of The Carter Center two new pledges — $500,000 toward the Guinea Worm Eradication Program and $500,000 toward the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) — from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), represented by His Excellency Director General Suleiman Jasir Al-Herbish. The new funding is in acknowledgement of the remarkable success and critical turning points in the Carter Center's efforts to wipe out two debilitating parasites — Guinea worm disease and river blindness.

"The last cases of a disease in an eradication or elimination effort are always the most difficult and expensive to address, and this is why The Carter Center is grateful to have the support of OFID as we rid the Americas of river blindness and the world of Guinea worm disease," President Carter said. "Through the support of our partners, we are making sure millions of people no longer suffer from these horrific illnesses and have the opportunity for a better future."

The pledge to the Guinea Worm Eradication Program will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through a $40 million challenge grant to The Carter Center and the World Health Organization in 2008.

The Carter Center is a leader in the eradication, elimination, and control of neglected diseases, working with partner countries' ministries of health to help some of the world's poorest and most isolated people build better health from the grassroots up using simple, cost-effective strategies.

Since 1986, a Carter Center-led coalition has reduced Guinea worm disease worldwide by more than 99 percent from an estimated 3.5 million reported cases in 20 countries in Africa and Asia to 3,190 reported cases in pockets of four remaining endemic countries in 2009—Sudan, Ghana, Mali, and Ethiopia.

In the Americas, as the sponsoring agency for the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas, The Carter Center has spearheaded the effort that already has halted river blindness transmission in seven of the original 13 endemic areas in Latin America. The Center is pushing for full elimination of the disease in the Western Hemisphere by 2015.

Located in Vienna, Austria, OFID is an international development agency whose mission is to promote economic and social advancement and cooperation in the developing world through financial assistance. OFID has been a partner of the Carter Center-led Guinea Worm Eradication Program since 1997. OFID also supported the Center's Ethiopia Public Health Training Initiative in 1998.

For more information and video presentations on Guinea worm disease and river blindness, visit


Editor's notes:

The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) is an intergovernmental development finance institution, established in 1976 by the then 13 member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OFID promotes cooperation between its member countries and other developing countries as an expression of south-south solidarity. In particular, it supports the social and economic advancement of low-income countries.  Please visit to learn more about OFID.

"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
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 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. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center. Follow us on Twitter 

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