The Carter Center have announced that it will no longer only control river blindness, but instead it will work with ministries of health to eliminate it in all 10 countries in Africa and Latin America in the areas where the Center fights the neglected disease. Spread by the bites of black flies that breed in rapidly flowing streams, river blindness (onchocerciasis) is a dreadful eye and skin disease affecting millions of the poorest people around the world.

"River blindness can and should be eliminated, not just controlled, even in the most afflicted areas of Africa," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "The Carter Center is taking on the challenge of eliminating river blindness in Africa and Latin America because we know immense suffering can be prevented if we apply both science and political will to this goal." River Blindness film
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The majority of river blindness occurs in Africa, where more than 120 million people are at risk and hundreds of thousands have been blinded by the condition. The disease can be prevented by community-delivered, mass treatments using the safe and effective oral drug Mectizan®, donated by Merck.

Moving from control to elimination is a turning point in the Center’s river blindness strategy, requiring thatintervention efforts intensify to wipe out the disease once and for all. Unlike in a control program, in an elimination program, success will mean that the countries’ precious health resources can be freed and reallocated to fight other diseases. The Center officially added the word elimination to its program name to reflect the new focus of its intervention efforts.

The Carter Center will enhance elimination efforts by assisting the ministries of health to increase distribution of Mectizan, moving from once-a-year to twice-a-year treatments in some areas, and starting drug distribution in previously untreated areas.

"Elimination means that the disease’s chain of transmission has been broken once and for all. Our experience shows that this strategic shift could permanently protect 21 million people and their descendants in Africa from this horrible parasitic worm in areas currently assisted by The Carter Center," said Dr. Frank Richards, Carter Center River Blindness Elimination Program director.

In Africa, the Center currently assists Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, and Uganda. At the end of 2012, The Carter Center had assisted in the delivery of approximately 172 million cumulative Mectizan treatments through community-based channels, as well as improved health education, surveillance and data management, and training of community-based health workers.

The engagement of a wide range of partners remains critical to the elimination of river blindness in Africa and Latin America, including the communities and the individual countries’ national programs. Donors and partners of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program have included Merck and its Mectizan Donation Program; the World Health Organization (WHO) including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the WHO-World Bank African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Lions Clubs International Foundation; the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); RTI International; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mr. John J. Moores; the former River Blindness Foundation; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation; BASF; the Mohamed S. Farsi Foundation; the OPEC Fund for International Development; and many other generous donors and partners.

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