The Carter Center’s initiative to eliminate river blindness in Nigeria is one of eight semi-finalists in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s competition for a 100&Change grant worth $100 million to be distributed over six years for solutions to critical social problems, Ambassador Mary Ann Peters, the center’s CEO, told the club’s annual “consular luncheon” gathering downtown of the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta on Tuesday, April 4.
MacArthur’s board of directors is to select up to five finalists in September that will present their proposals during a live event on Dec. 11. The competition for the 100&Change grant drew1,904 proposals from which the semi-finalists were chosen.
Ms. Peters encouraged the Kiwanians to support the center’s social media campaign promoting the sole Atlanta-based initiative. “We hope that Kiwanians will cheer us on,” she said by tweeting and entering online conversations about the initiative.
A former career U.S. diplomat who served as ambassador to Bangladesh from 2000-03, Ms. Peters joined the Carter Center in September 2014. She said that by eliminating transmission of river blindness disease in Nigeria, the initiative would create a model for the rest of Africa and elsewhere.
River blindness affects an estimated 32.7 million people worldwide, according to the center, and is endemic in Nigeria with roughly 50 million people in 40,000 communities in the country infected through black fly bites.
No matter how worthy, the Carter Center initiative faces serious challenges from the other semi-finalists including Catholic Relief Services: changing how society cares for children in orphanages; HarvestPlus: eliminating hidden hunger in Africa by fortifying stable crops; Himalayan Cataract: eliminating needless blindness in Nepal, Ethiopia and Ghana;
Human Diagnosis Project: providing virtual access to specialist medical care for underserved U.S. patients; Internet Archive: providing libraries and learners free digital access to 4 million books; Rice University, improving newborn survival in Africa; Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee: educating children displaced by conflict and persecution.
These semi-finalists will work with MacArthur experts to address questions about their technical and organizational capacities who will submit their assessments to the MacArthur board. They also will have to show engagement with the targeted communities and other stakeholders.
The Carter Center initiative is to be conducted in partnership with Nigeria’s Ministry of Health and local non-government organizations to distribute the drug ivermectin (Mectizan), which has been proven to stop transmission of the disease.
Similar Carter Center projects have eliminate river blindness from four countries in the Americas and from parts of Uganda and Sudan.
Among the members of the Consular Corps attending the luncheon were:Claudia Maria Valenzuela Diaz, El Salvador, dean of the Consular Corps; Ambassador Ted Britton, Albania; Ferdinand Seefried, honorary consul general, Austria; Lawrence Ashe, Jr., honorary consul, Poland; Flora Leah Vennegas Corrales, consul general, Costa Rica; Peter Taylor, consul, Canada; Takashi Shinozuka, consul general, Japan; Javier Diaz de Leon, consul general, Mexico; Miguel Aleman, consul general, Peru;
Wiliam De Baets, consul general, Belgium; Polyxeni Potter, honorary consul, Cyprus; John Parkerson, honorary consul general, Hungary; Charles H. Battle Jr., honorary consul, Monaco; Jorge Lopez, consul general, Argentina; Ambassador Judith Shorer, consul general, Israel; Julius Coles, honorary consul, Senegal; Cynthia Jarrett Thorpe, honorary consul, Sierra Leone.
Other internationally connected guests included, Vincent Liu, director general, Taipei Economic & Cultural Office; Tony Tai, deputy director, Taipei Economic & Cultural Office; Witold Zabinski, president, Atlanta Polish American Chamber of Commerce; and Miriam Bruns, executive director, Goethe Zentrum Atlanta.
For more information about the Carter Center’s river blindness initiative and the 100&Change grant, contact Nicole Kruse, chief development officer, at The Carter Center by calling (404) 420-5100.