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President Carter Congratulates Colombia On Eradicating River Blindness

“Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today congratulated President Juan Manuel Santos and the people of Colombia for becoming … the first country in the Americas to eliminate river blindness and … the first country in the world to apply for and be granted verification of elimination of river blindness by the [WHO],” Global Dispatch reports. “Colombia’s achievement demonstrates that a future free from river blindness is possible for everyone in the Americas, and is an inspiration for the Carter Center’s recent commitment to not only control the spread of river blindness but to eliminate the disease wherever we are fighting it in Africa,” Carter said, the news service writes. The Carter Center “has led the campaign to wipe out the disease in Latin America through its Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA),” Global Dispatch notes (Herriman, 7/29).

Onchocerciasis is “caused by a nematode worm transmitted by several species of black flies, from Africa, causing severe injuries to the skin and eyes and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide,” Prensa Latina reports, noting, “At present there are 12 endemic outbreaks in five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean” (7/29). In a post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Natalia Machuca, an infectious disease adviser at USAID, writes, “In the Americas, Ecuador is expected to be the next country to receive verification of elimination and Guatemala and Mexico are soon to follow. In the western hemisphere, only one remote area at the border between Brazil and Venezuela continues to be affected by river blindness” (7/29).