Gates Foundation Pledges $25 Million to Eradicate Guinea Worm Disease

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $25 million to the Atlanta-based Carter Center's campaign to eradicate the remaining cases of Guinea worm disease worldwide.

The grant includes an initial $5 million contribution and challenges other donors to provide an additional $20 million, which the foundation will match one-to-one over the next four years. The Canadian International Development Agency and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation have already responded by pledging $5 million and $1 million, respectively.

Guinea worm disease, a water-borne, parasitic disease contracted when contaminated water is consumed, has been reduced by more than 99.5 percent, from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986 to approximately 15,500 cases reported in 2004. Those infected are often unable to go to school, farm their crops, or do other work, resulting in serious economic losses and increased poverty. The disease can be controlled through public health measures such as treating drinking water and educating people who are infected to take precautions that prevent transmission. It will be the first disease to be eradicated without medicines or vaccines.

"Through their support, the Gates Foundation, CIDA, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation are demonstrating international leadership in the fight against unnecessary suffering in the developing world," said former President Jimmy Carter. "The last cases of Guinea worm disease are the most crucial, difficult, and expensive to contain. The new peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan and the recent Gates Foundation challenge grant will help us secure the remaining access and resources needed to finish the job."