Lions-Carter Center: Partners in Vision
The Carter Center partnership is among the most important and long-lasting relationships currently enjoyed by the SightFirst program and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF). As one of the Foundation’s most notable programs, SightFirst funds efforts to fight the major causes of preventable and reversible blindness and provide services to persons who are blind or have a visual impairment.
Rising to the Challenge
Since 1994, LCIF has approved more than 60 river blindness and trachoma grants totaling over US$67 million. River blindness (also known as onchocerciasis), is a vector-borne parasitic disease that leads to blindness, and trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. The Lions-Carter Center SightFirst Partnership programs are among the world’s most ambitious and successful sight initiatives and have led to measurable change for many throughout Africa and the Americas.
Together, our partnership with the Carter Center has resulted in more than 236 million treatments to eliminate river blindness and over 177 million treatments to halt the blinding effects of trachoma. Over 799,000 sight-saving surgeries to reverse the advanced stage of trachoma have been performed, and more than 3.2 million latrines have been built to reduce transmission of infection.
From Helpless to Hopeful
As a result of The Lions-Carter Center partnership, the World Health Organization has verified four countries in the Americas as free of river blindness (Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Guatemala). River blindness transmission also has been interrupted and mass drug administration halted in significant areas of Sudan, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Further to this, the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, which suffers from the worst known trachoma prevalence in the world, has witnessed over 5 million people no longer requiring mass drug administration to prevent the disease, and the backlog of patients requiring surgery dwindle exponentially each year. Millions are free from these diseases thanks to the Lions-Carter Center partnership and Lions support. These accomplishments would not have occurred without LCIF’s early investments, and the constant support and advocacy of Lions Clubs in each country.The World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA 47.32 in 1994 calling for the use of mass drug distribution for onchocerciasis, and WHA 51.11 in 1998, targeting the global elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.
A Desperate Vision Crisis
Even though river blindness and trachoma are a completely preventable disease. The World Health Organization provides these sobering estimates*:
- 20.9 million people infected with river blindness; 1.15 million with vision loss due to parasite.
- 99% of persons infected with river blindness are in Africa – also found in Yemen and Latin America (Brazil and Venezuela)
- 142 million people are at risk of trachoma blindness and once blinded, the condition is irreversible.
- Trachoma is a public health problem in 44 countries, mostly in Africa.
- Trachoma is responsible for blindness or visual impairment of about 1.9 million people.
- Trachoma is a completely preventable disease.
Local Lions Clubs help mobilize communities to participate in drug distribution, eyelid surgery campaigns, and latrine constructions. Lions provide ongoing technical support, monitor progress, and meet with influential leaders in their countries to advocate for continued attention to river blindness and trachoma.
A Valuable Partner
Lions Clubs International has invested US$415 million and has worked for more than a quarter century to eliminate avoidable blindness around the world, including helping 30 million people improve and restore their vision.
Since 1994, LCIF has partnered with The Carter Center to eliminate river blindness and trachoma. Over two decades, LCIF has approved more than 60 river blindness and trachoma grants to The Carter Center, totaling over US$67 million. Notably, through the Lions-Carter Center SightFirst program:
- more than 236 million treatments have been provided to eliminate river blindness;
- over 177 million treatments have been provided to halt the blinding effects of trachoma;
- over 799,000 sight-saving surgeries to reverse the advanced stage of trachoma have been performed; and
- more than 3.2 million latrines have been built to reduce transmission of infection.
Through continued work in partnership, we are confident that together we will reach our shared goals of eliminating river blindness and trachoma.
- Lead the world in establishing and strengthening comprehensive eye care institutions and systems through capital expansions, equipment provisioning and human resource training.
- Support national efforts to eliminate blinding diseases like onchocerciasis (“river blindness”) and trachoma, the world’s leading causes of infectious blindness and visual impairment, through volunteer training and supervision, advocacy, surgical services, and distribution of appropriate medications.
- Lead the global response to the uncorrected refractive error challenge by supporting projects that provide high-quality, sustainable and high-impact refractive error services.
- Enhance and expand Lions-led comprehensive vision screening programs for adults and children.