Approximately 120 million people in Africa and Latin America are at risk of contracting onchocerciasis, or “river blindness,” and despite major advances in control, 18 million people remain heavily infected. Since LCIF’s SightFirst program and The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, first forged a partnership in 1999, just over 153 million people in Africa and Latin America have received treatments of Mectizan for river blindness. LCIF has awarded The Carter Center more than US$40 million to help support its battle to eradicate this devastating, but easily preventable, disease.
Receiving these simple treatments for river blindness has transformed the lives of people in 15 countries, giving them a chance to live more productive lives, stay in their home villages without fear of contracting river blindness and be free of the debilitating effects of this disease. As this important project continues, the goal is for river blindness to actually come to a halt; in fact, the eradication of the disease in Latin America is projected for 2012. In 2008, Colombia became the first of the six river blindness endemic nations to break the transmission of onchocerciasis. In March 2010, Ecuador became the second nation in the Americas to halt the transmission of onchocerciasis.
LCIF also is partnering with The Carter Center to battle trachoma in two African nations. Trachoma is one of the oldest known infectious diseases and the leading cause of preventable blindness, affecting 6 million people and putting another 500 million at risk. LCIF has provided US$10 million for eight ongoing projects and funding assistance to The Carter Center. Funds help support tens of thousands of operations, training medical professionals, providing medicines and strengthening eye care centers in underserved areas.
Together, LCIF and The Carter Center will continue battling these eye diseases that cause blindness and unnecessary suffering. “Thanks to our partners, we see the success of our work in the eyes of children who will never go blind and in the faces of parents who now have hope that their lives can improve,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.