Accra, April 7, GNA - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged 25 million dollars toward the Carter Centre's fight to eradicate the remaining cases of guinea worm disease worldwide. The Foundation would provide an initial contribution of five million dollars this year and would match other donor contributions one-to-one up to five million dollars each year for the next four years.
"Once the challenge has been met, a total of 45 million dollars would have been raised from the Gates Foundation and other donors for the eradication effort," Ms Regina Rabinovich, Director of the Gates Foundation's Infectious Diseases Programme, said in a statement issued in Accra on Thursday.
She said already, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation had responded to the challenge by pledging five million dollars and one million dollars, respectively, thus joining with the Centre and the Gates Foundation to help make guinea worm the first parasitic disease to be eradicated.
"Today, through efforts of The Carter Centre and its partners, the incidence of the guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) has been reduced by more than 99.5 per cent; from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986 to approximately 15,500 cases reported in 2004."
Guinea worm is a water-borne parasitic disease contracted through the drinking of contaminated water. People with the disease are often unable to go to school, farm their crops or do other work, resulting in serious economic losses and increased poverty.
The disease could be controlled through public health measures such as treating drinking water and educating people who were infected to take precautions that prevented transmission.
It would be the first disease to be eradicated without medicine or vaccines if the programme succeeded.
"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," the statement quoted Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as saying.
"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 would help us to secure the remaining access and resources needed to finish the job. It would be a historic moment when, working together, the global community eradicates this 3,000-year-old disease."
"Eradicating guinea worm disease would improve the lives of millions for generations to come. We're pleased to support The Carter Centre, whose success in fighting guinea worm demonstrates the power of international collaboration to solve the health problems facing developing countries."