The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $8 million to the Atlanta-based Carter Center and the World Health Organization to help fight Guinea worm disease, which has been reduced to only 5,000 estimated cases in six African nations.

In addition, the Gates Foundation will match up to $32 million in donations from other organizations, potentially bringing in $72 million to fight the disease.

The Gates Foundation challenge grant already has attracted one donor. The United Kingdom Department of International Development has pledged $15 million. The Gates Foundation will match that amount. 

The funds will be shared between the Carter Center and WHO, according to a Carter Center news release.

The Carter Center in 1986 launched a campaign to wipe out Guinea worm disease. There were then 3.5 million cases in 20 African and Asian countries.

Guinea worm disease, which incapacitates its victims, is spread by contaminated water. It can be prevented by filtering drinking water. The Carter Center supplies fine-mesh filter cloths for that purpose.

Although the number of cases has declined dramatically, health officials still have an extensive monitoring system in place to prevent further outbreaks until the disease is eradicated.

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