The Carter Center–an Introduction to One of Our Links
Something new, an elaboration on links found here. This edition we will start with the Carter Center. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife founded the Center in 1982, in partnership with Emory University. By the time his term as the 39th president (1977-1981) ended, his approval rating had dropped into the 30 percent range. As the head of the non-profit, non-governmental organization he leads, he has accomplished much and he now enjoys an approval rating in the mid 60% range. The Center has much to do with that. Its website notes:
The Center is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health. The Center emphasizes action and measurable results. Based on careful research and analysis, it is prepared to take timely action on important and pressing issues. The Center seeks to break new ground and not duplicate the effective efforts of others. The Center addresses difficult problems in difficult situations and recognizes the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk. The Center is nonpartisan, actively seeks complementary partnerships and works collaboratively with other organizations from the highest levels of government to local communities. The Center believes that people can improve their own lives when provided with the necessary skills, knowledge, and access to resources.
In an overview of its accomplishments, its website says, “The Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production.” More specifically the site mentions:
- Observing 97 elections in 38 countries to help establish and strengthen democracies
- Furthering avenues to peace in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, the Korean Peninsula, Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Middle East
- Helping to establish a village-based health care delivery system in thousands of communities in Africa that now have trained health care personnel and volunteers to distribute drugs and provide health education
- Strengthening international standards for human rights and the voices of individuals defending those rights in their communities worldwide
- Pioneering new public health approaches to preventing or controlling devastating neglected diseases in Africa and Latin America
- Advancing efforts to improve mental health care and diminish the stigma against people with mental illnesses.
To get a better picture of the magnitude of its accomplishments, let’s look at just one area, the focus on fighting six preventable diseases in Third World countries by using health education and simple, low-cost methods. These include diseases which few people in developed nations have ever heard of: Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria.
Taking just one of those diseases, Guinea worm, what has the Center accomplished? Thanks to the efforts of the Carter Center and its partners, including the countries themselves, Guinea worm disease is set to become the second human disease in history, after smallpox, eradicated. It will be the first parasitic disease eradicated and the first disease eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medicine. In 1986, the disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, the incidence of Guinea worm has been reduced by more than 99.9 percent to 148 cases in 2013.
So how bad is Guinea worm disease?If you are squeamish, you may wish to skip this explanation. Considered a neglected tropical disease, Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) is a parasitic infection caused by the nematode roundworm parasite Dracunculus medinensis. People contract the disease by consuming water from stagnant sources contaminated with Guinea worm larvae. Inside a human’s abdomen, Guinea worm larvae mate and female worms mature and grow. After about a year of incubation, the female Guinea worm, 1 meter long, creates an agonizingly painful lesion on the skin and slowly emerges from the body. Guinea worm is a particularly devastating disease that incapacitates people for extended periods of time, making them unable to care for themselves, work, grow food for their families, or attend school. So, it is a very big deal that the Center has made these strides in eliminating the disease!
Regardless of your political affiliation or what opinion you may hold about Carter as President, you should consider supporting The Carter Center.