Eric Margules 2014-07-09 14:36:32
Preventable Blindness To Be Reduced Imagine living for years with painful eye lesions, watching the world steadily dim as your eyesight weakens and eventually fails from what was ultimately a preventable condition. This desperation is real for hundreds of thousands of people with onchocerciasis, more commonly known as river blindness, and other cases of preventable blindness in countries across Africa and some of the poorest regions of the world. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and 2013-14 Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) Chairperson Wayne Madden recently announced an $8.8 million grant to the Lions-Carter Center SightFirst Initiative. The LCIF grant will be disbursed over three years to eliminate river blindness and other causes of preventable blindness. Carter and Madden met in May with top executives from both the Carter Center and LCIF during a signing ceremony to express LCIF’s intent to provide $8.8 million to the Lions- Carter Center SightFirst Initiative. The dramatic expansion of the initiative will help both organizations continue the fight against preventable blindness in Ethiopia, Uganda, Mali and Niger. “For 20 years, the partnership with Lions Clubs International Foundation has been instrumental in supporting The Carter Center’s leadership in the fight against neglected diseases,” says Carter. “The Lions’ continued financial support will help The Carter Center, local Lions clubs, and other national partners defeat preventable blindness in some of the most affected communities in the world.” The Carter Center, which partnered with LCIF in 1999 when the Lions-Carter Center SightFirst Initiative was established, plans to use the increased funding to ramp up its fight against river blindness and trachoma–the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness of infectious origin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mali and Niger are making progress in eliminating blinding trachoma by 2015, and efforts to eliminate trachoma in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, the most endemic region in the world, are generating promising results. In addition, the Center has changed its approach to river blindness in Africa. It announced last year it was no longer working to control the disease, but instead seeking to assist ministries of health to eliminate it from the areas where the Center works. “Lions have a long history of preserving sight, so it’s an honor to work with The Carter Center and our fellow Lion, President Carter, to help eliminate river blindness and blinding trachoma in African nations where we’re needed most,” says Madden. Throughout the campaign, local Lions clubs will provide logistical support and help mobilize at-risk communities to participate in drug administration, surgery campaigns, latrine construction and other health-related efforts. United by a desire to see the eradication of preventable blindness, Lions are relying on cooperation, education, advocacy and sight-saving initiatives to rid the world of these preventable diseases.
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