Lions remain active in the fight against onchocerciasis, and international efforts to eliminate the disease have made significant advances in the last year.
International Second Vice President Bob Corlew and a delegation of international Lions leadership traveled to Mexico City in November to participate in the XXIV InterAmerican Conference on Onchocerciasis (IACO), an annual meeting for partners of the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) to celebrate achievements in the elimination of onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, and to discuss potential solutions to remaining challenges.
Mexico has now eliminated disease transmission and completed the post-treatment surveillance period. Officials have submitted its dossier to the World Health Organization (WHO) for disease elimination verification. If confirmed, Mexico will become the third country in the region to receive verification of elimination of onchocerciasis. The government of Guatemala also is preparing to start the official process to request confirmation from WHO. In 2013, Colombia became the first country confirmed by WHO as free of onchocerciasis, and Ecuador in September became the second country to receive confirmation.
While at the conference in Mexico City, Corlew and other Lion leaders met with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a Lion, and Mary Anne Peters, CEO of The Carter Center and a former ambassador, to discuss the ongoing partnership between Lions and The Carter Center, which began in 1999.
“We are making huge strides toward halting onchocerciasis,” says Corlew. “Thanks to the work of our partners and the generosity of our Lions, we are preventing blindness and creating a future free from this debilitating disease.”
Onchocerciasis is a parasitic infection that causes extreme itching and eye lesions, and may lead to disfiguring skin diseases, low vision and irreversible blindness. Transmission of onchocerciasis in the Americas now continues only in the border region between Venezuela and Brazil among the Yanomami population. Interrupting onchocerciasis transmission in this region poses a significant challenge because the Yanomami people are migratory and live deep in the Amazon rainforest.
During the IACO conference, the ministries of health of Venezuela and Brazil committed to working together with The Carter Center, OEPA and other partners to eliminate onchocerciasis from this region by 2019. The Carlos Slim Foundation donated US$6.8 million to OEPA to support elimination efforts among the Yanomami people.
Since the Lions-Carter Center partnership began, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has provided US$6.3 million to Latin America via The Carter Center for onchocerciasis control, plus additional funds to help Lions in Brazil, Ecuador and other impacted countries support national onchocerciasis control projects. Latin America now has less than 1 percent of the world’s river blindness. About 120 million people remain at risk in Africa.
*This story by Cassandra Bannon is from the February 2015 edition of LION Magazine.
In the February LION Magazine, find a host of ideas and inspiration for your Honolulu international convention experience. Also, learn about a club in North Carolina that beautifies its town thanks to garbage, find out ways Lions make the most of winter service and hear the Lions’ roar from Uganda.
Also in this issue:
In the Digital LION, watch videos that recap the 2000 convention in Honolulu and beckon Lions to Hawaii, read LION stories from the archives on past Hawaii conventions and see the latest Higher Key Award recipients.
Visit the LION Magazine page to contact editors, view past issues and listen to the audio version of the magazine.
Leanne Camilleri will always remember February 7, 2009 as Black Friday—the day she was among the 7,562 Australians displaced from their homes from the continent’s most destructive string of bushfires. Scorching temperatures, high winds and low humidity ignited the fires that destroyed over 1.1 million acres of land and injured or killed hundreds of people. The community of Marysville in Victoria was virtually destroyed in 26 minutes. All but 14 of the town’s 400 buildings were consumed, leaving those who survived with nothing.
“The state just erupted in fire. It was so hot that the iron on the roof was melting in pools. Engines in cars were melting. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen and nothing I ever want to see again,” said David Jones, Melbourne Lions Club. Amidst the smoke and with the assistance of US$130,000 in major catastrophe and emergency grants awarded by the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Lions stepped up immediately with generous donations of supplies and the creation of a relief distribution center to help people like Camilleri.
Reaching remote Marysville was challenging, but Lions worked non-stop, overcoming many obstacles to make sure that donations reached those who needed them. “When you go from absolutely nothing to within a couple of weeks we’re comfortable, we’re feeling quite overwhelmed by all of that,” said Christine Adams, fire victim and Lion.
“It’s very hard to describe how you’re feeling, that you’re walking out of something and you have just lost everything. It wasn’t until people started ringing us and said, ‘Well, look, the Lions can help you out.’ I can’t get over the generosity of people. It’s not just simply, ‘we’re giving you something.’ But they’re also giving us part of themselves as well. I can’t thank them enough,” Camilleri explained.
From LCIF: Our Impact Story Archives
When natural disasters strike, Lions are there to offer help and support. In times of need, Lions are able to rely on disaster relief grants and funds from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF).
In January 2015, LCIF provided 5 emergency and disaster relief grants totaling US$40,000.
These grants are adressing meet immediate needs in:
Malaysia, District 308-B1
$10,000 for flood relief
Thailand, District 310-B
$10,000 for flood relief
Sri Lanka, District 306-C2
$5,000 for flood relief
Brazil, District LC-5
$5,000 for fire relief
Malawi, District 412
$10,000 for flood relief
*Emergency grants listed by date approved.
Emergency Grants provide up to US$10,000 for districts impacted by a natural disaster that has affected at least 100 people, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis. Lions district governors may apply for disaster relief funds to help meet immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and medical supplies. LCIF typically awards more than US$2 million in Emergency Grant funding each year.
The Chanis Lions Club in Panama took part in an activity organized by District D-1 to provide medical assistance for those in need. With the help of Lions Clubs Don Bosco, Meteti-Darien and Parque Lefevre, they were able to offer pediatric care, ophthalmology, gynecology, dentistry, optometry and general care. They were also able to perform laboratory tests and provide medicines through their local pharmacy and the support of Lions Clubs El Dorado, Agua Dulce, and Betania. Be sure to follow the Chanis Lions on Facebook for up-to-date information on their club projects.
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