Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and businessman Sir Emeka Offor signed an agreement today for a partnership to eliminate river blindness (onchocerciasis) from seven states in Nigeria where The Carter Center works with the Federal Ministry of Health, including Sir Emeka’s native state, Anambra. The project is made possible by grant support of USD$10 million from the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF). It will help reach the goal of eliminating river blindness from the world’s most endemic country by 2020.
“The new resources from the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation will extend the reach of the Carter Center’s work in South East and South South Nigeria and help accelerate river blindness elimination throughout Nigeria at a pivotal time,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose health programs have actively collaborated with the government of Nigeria to eliminate and control diseases in Africa’s most populous country since 1988.
The $10 million multi-year commitment by Sir Emeka is the largest grant from an individual African donor in Carter Center history, and the new resources will fund two-thirds of the Carter Center’s expanded interventions against river blindness in Nigeria to help meet the five-year target to eliminate river blindness nationwide. Since 2013, with an initial gift of $250,000, the SEOF has been a valued partner to the Center’s River Blindness Elimination Program, helping to change the face of philanthropy and inspire more African engagement and support.
“I am deeply honored to work closely with The Carter Center, through the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation to help eliminate river blindness in Nigeria,” said Sir Emeka, founder and chairman of the SEOF, a charitable organization focused on health, education, and empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Nigeria has more cases of river blindness than any other country in the world. Yet, we know that with adequate resources, hard work, and perseverance, we can defeat this terrible neglected disease that can steal a person’s ability to see the beauty of the world in which we live and to enjoy a full and active life.”
At the Atlanta-based Carter Center, more than 300 individuals from the Atlanta and international communities attended the official signing ceremony and learned more about river blindness elimination efforts. Spread by the bites of infected black flies that breed in rapidly flowing streams, the river blindness parasite causes dreadful eye and skin disease affecting millions of the poorest people in 36 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Yemen.