The grant will fund efforts in seven southern states in Nigeria to eliminate river blindness (onchocerciasis) by 2020 from the country where the disease is most endemic and which accounts for nearly half of all the cases in the world. For nearly two decades, the Carter Center has partnered with the country's Ministry of Health to fight river blindness in nine Nigerian states through community-based health education and the mass administration of Mectizan, a microfilarial drug donated by the pharmaceutical company Merck. The largest grant to the center from an African donor to date will support efforts to expand coverage, increase distribution of Mectizan, and provide more frequent treatment in the states of Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, and Imo.
"In southeast and south-south Nigeria, we still face challenges in the fight against river blindness," said Frank O. Richards, Jr., director of the Carter Center's river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis programs. "We still have evidence that children are being infected, and we can still find infected black flies. So the center's strengthened partnership with the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation is really a critical catalyst to further the momentum of stopping this transmission cycle, and in doing so eliminating river blindness in the areas where we work."
"Since its inception in 1996, the Carter Center's River Blindness Program has improved coverage, increased the population it assists, and shown great impact on disease prevalence in Nigeria," said Emmanuel Miri, country representative of the Carter Center's health programs in Nigeria. "Today's unprecedented donation from the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation will allow us to ramp up the program and close in on elimination, impacting many more people in southern Nigeria."