The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the 2006 Gates Award for Global Health to the Carter Center in recognition of its pioneering work in the battle against neglected diseases such as Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma, schistosomiasis, and lymphatic filariasis.
The $1 million prize — the world's largest international health prize — honors extraordinary efforts to improve health in developing countries. Founded in 1982, the Atlanta-based Carter Center is dedicated to advancing human rights and alleviating human suffering worldwide. One of its initiatives, the Carter Center Guinea Worm Eradication Program, has helped to reduce cases of the disease from an estimated 3.5 million in 1986 to under 11,000 in 2005. Guinea worm is expected to become the second disease, after smallpox, to be eradicated worldwide, and Carter Center officials hope to eliminate river blindness in the Americas by 2010.
The center's global health achievements to date include delivering more than 75 million treatments for river blindness; establishing more than four thousand community-based prevention programs for trachoma, the largest preventable cause of blindness; leading campaigns to control and treat lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis; and training health workers needed to serve 90 percent of Ethiopia's population.
"I am honored to accept this award on behalf of our staff, partners, and volunteers, and most importantly, the people we serve," said former President Jimmy Carter. "Together with our partners, we can win the battle against preventable diseases and unnecessary suffering."