Back in the mid-1980s when Jimmy Carter established the Carter Center, an estimated 3.5 million people across 21 countries in Africa and Asia suffered from Guinea worm disease, a disease for which there is no cure, vaccine, or procedure to treat it. Most of us aren’t familiar with just how horribly people with Guinea worm disease suffer.
Typically contracted through ingesting contaminated water, these worms grow up to three feet long within a year. Once the worm is finished wreaking havoc on its host, it exits through lesions that can form anywhere on the body. This, as you can imagine is extremely painful and the lesions can, and do, often lead to secondary infections.
After witnessing this suffering first hand and coming to the realization that the global health community was, for the most part, completely ignoring Guinea worm disease, Jimmy Carter dedicated the Carter Center’s work to eradicating Guinea worm.
As a former president, Carter knew a little something about fundraising and stumping for a cause. Over time, the Carter Center managed to get international NGOs and government agencies involved in the fight to eradicate Guinea worm. The center was successful at both and garnered some big-time donations from the likes of philanthropists such as Bill Gates, who has donated nearly $90 million to the center. Over the past few decades, the Carter Center has been inching ever closer to decimating the parasite.
The Carter Center isn’t done with Guinea worm just yet, but the end is definitely nigh for this particular dread disease and CIFF’s $20 million give is going to help get it past the finish line.
Last year, there were around 126 reported cases of Guinea worm disease; this year to date, there are five. CIFF’s $20 million in funding will be spread out over six years to ensure that Guinea worm disease gets gone and stays gone. CIFF’s latest give is a significant jump from the $6.7 million grant it awarded to the Carter Center back in 2011. Should the Carter Center and CIFF be successful in wiping the guinea worm from the planet, it will be the first-ever parasitic disease to be eradicated.
CIFF is committed to worldwide deworming and has dedicated some $40 million to ensure that “every child is free from worms forever.” Deworming is one of six major funding priorities for the foundation, and it's a public health priority that's generated some controversy lately. Other areas of focus include nutrition, health, climate change, education, and humanitarian efforts.