Guest Blog by: The Carter Center, Paige Rohe
Founded in 1986, The Carter Center has been a leader in the control, elimination, and eradication of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), working at the grassroots level in partnership with ministries of health and low-resource communities to conduct health education, mass drug administration, and develop health service infrastructure.
Before The Carter Center began its work, diseases like Guinea worm and river blindness were seen as a fact of life in the world’s poorest countries. As a pioneer in NTD implementation, research, and impact, the Center has helped deliver approximately 219 million cumulative treatments since 1996 to combat four preventable diseases—river blindness, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis—in six Latin American and seven African countries.
In 2006, the Center won the Gates Award for Global Health in recognition for this work. Since then, the fight against NTDs has continued. The following year, with Gates Foundation assistance and building on nearly two decades of experience inNigeria, The Carter Center began two new research projects to further investigate integrated efforts against NTDs.
In 2008, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem with the CarterCenter’s help. The Carter Center’s International Task Force for Disease Eradication recently reported that blinding trachoma can be eliminated by 2020 through the SAFE strategy for trachoma control, provided interventions are intensified soon—surgery to repair eye damage, antibiotics, face and hand washing, and environmental hygiene.
Closer to home, from 2008 to 2010, The Carter Center began an 18-month initiative to stimulate elimination of malaria and lymphatic filariasis at the invitation of the governments ofHaitiand theDominican Republic.
In 2009,Nigeria, once the most Guinea worm-endemic country in the world, reported zero cases for an entire year, thus halting transmission.
In 2010, alone, the Carter Center’s health programs enabled 35.8 million treatments to protect against NTDs in thousands of communities in Africa and the Americas. This all-time record achievement was recognized at the CarterCenter’s headquarters in March following nearly three weeks of intensive annual program peer reviews and evaluation conducted jointly by The Carter Center, ministries of health from 14 countries in Africa and theAmericas, and other partner organizations.
More 2010 Carter Center Highlights in the Fight Against Neglected Disease
- The Carter Center-led campaign to wipe out Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) recently celebrated Nigeria and Niger’s elimination. Ghana will be the next to stop transmission. The Carter Center hopes to make Guinea worm the next disease to be eradicated in human history.
- The Center’s International Task Force for Disease Eradication recommends that river blindness elimination be pursued whenever possible.
- The Carter Center leads the campaign to eliminate river blindness from the Americas. Ecuador joined Colombia as one of only two countries in history to halt transmission of river blindness (onchocerciasis) through health education and semiannual mass distribution of Mectizan® (donated by Merck). Only five of 13 original areas are believed to remain endemic as efforts are intensified to wipe out this disease from the Western Hemisphere in the next few years.
- Using health education and semi-annual distribution of Mectizan, the Center is working to eliminate river blindness from Abu Hamad on the River Nile in Sudan, and Uganda is on the verge of proving that river blindness can be eliminated from Mt. Elgon in the eastern part of the country.
- Nigeria—the third most lymphatic filariasis-endemic country in the world—demonstrated that elimination of the debilitating disease is possible when it announced that one-third of districts in two states in Nigeria halted transmission and another one-third are about to. In addition, more than 1.3 million praziquantel treatments (donated by the World Health Organization and E-Merck) were delivered in four states to tackle schistosomiasis in this most endemic country in the world.
- The CarterCenterdelivered 9 million Zithromax® treatments (donated by Pfizer Inc.) for trachoma inEthiopia, the world’s most trachoma-endemic area. This pioneering treatment campaign integrates malaria and trachoma control, allowing health workers to devote more effort during the rest of the year to target other interventions.
“We don’t just rely on increased treatment numbers to tell us our efforts are working to improve health. The Carter Center uses evidence-based practices to carefully evaluate whether our interventions are significantly reducing the burden of disease, and we’re constantly working to ensure they do,” said Dr. Donald Hopkins, vice president for health programs at The Carter Center.
Moving forward, the Center will continue to pursue the elimination and control of neglected diseases in the world’s worst-affected areas, giving people the tools and knowledge they need to improve their own lives.
For more information on the Carter Center’s work against neglected diseases, please visit www.cartercenter.org, follow the Center on Twitter (www.twitter.com/cartercenter), or find the Center on Facebook (www.facebook.com/cartercenter).