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CARTER CENTER WELCOMES GATES FOUNDATION, UAE, CIFF FUNDING TO ACHIEVE GUINEA WORM ERADICATION

By The Carter Center

ATLANTA….$40 million in donations announced today from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) will enable a Carter Center-led eradication campaign to end Guinea worm disease by 2015. The Center also announced today that provisional results show only 1,060 cases of Guinea worm occurred worldwide in 2011.

The grants, along with £20 million (approximately $31 million USD) committed by the United Kingdom in October 2011, will fund Carter Center interventions against remaining cases of the disease and surveillance by the World Health Organization to certify eradication of Guinea worm over three years once transmission is halted in all nations.

“Millions of people in Africa and Asia will no longer risk suffering one of the most horrific human diseases ever known thanks to the generosity and global health leadership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the UAE, and the United Kingdom,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, founder of The Carter Center. “These donor commitments speak to the importance that Guinea worm disease prevention and eradication has to the overall development agenda of poverty stricken nations.”

In 2011, cases of Guinea worm disease occurred in three remaining endemic nations—South Sudan, Mali, and Ethiopia—and in Chad, where there was an isolated outbreak. When The Carter Center began spearheading the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, that number has been reduced to less than 1 percent of the original count, with most cases (97 percent) remaining in South Sudan.

In addition to leadership shown by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UAE, CIFF, and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), partnerships with communities, national ministries of health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and many other organizations and individuals are a critical component of the campaign's success.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a valued and long-standing partner in the fight against Guinea worm disease, investing more than $100 million in the effort to date and inspiring an outpouring of contributions over the past four years from the donor community through the Foundation's 2008 challenge grant of $32 million. The Gates Foundation contributed $23.3 million toward today's $40 million pledge.

One of the first to join the international campaign against Guinea worm disease, His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, invested significant resources in the 1990s on behalf of the UAE to help launch the Guinea Worm Eradication Program. This early investment enabled the program, based at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga., to establish global operations and accelerate interventions against Guinea worm disease. Building on His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's legacy through this new, generous support, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, has demonstrated the same commitment to ending Guinea worm. With the partnership of the UAE, the Guinea worm eradication campaign has the resources necessary to sustain momentum at this critical juncture. The UAE pledged $10 million toward today's donations.

The Children's Investment Fund Foundation forges partnerships to improve child survival and development, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and India. Based in the United Kingdom, CIFF pledged $6.7 million today toward Guinea worm eradication, which directly supports CIFF's commitment to control of neglected tropical diseases and its aim to improve the lives of children living in poverty by achieving large-scale, sustainable impact.

Guinea worm disease afflicts the world's poorest and most isolated communities. Also known as dracunculiasis, the disease is contracted when people consume water contaminated with Guinea worm larvae. After a year, one or more worms up to a meter long can emerge through painful blisters in the skin. The ancient disease is being wiped out through simple, cost-effective measures, including health education to teach people to filter all drinking water and stay out of water sources when they have emerging worms to keep from contaminating the water with new larvae. There are no vaccines or medicines to prevent or treat this parasitic disease, which, though not fatal, is horrific and painful. It debilitates its victims and entire communities, keeping children from attending school and farmers from their fields.

Had the Guinea worm eradication campaign not been initiated in 1986, it is estimated that 3.5 million Guinea worm cases would have continued to occur annually. The Carter Center estimates that the eradication campaign has averted around 79.2 million cases, with the cost per case averted estimated at $3.47.

Funds announced today will eliminate the last vestiges of Guinea worm disease, which are found in poverty-stricken areas with little infrastructure, near zones of conflict, or among nomadic populations. “The last cases of any disease are the most challenging to wipe out," said President Carter. “But we know that with the international community's support, Guinea worm disease soon will be relegated to the history books.”


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