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Guinea Worm Disease
“[I want the] last guinea worm to die before I do.” Jimmy Carter may soon get his wish. The former President of the United States has spent the last 30+ years on a number of humanitarian missions through his namesake nonprofit—The Carter Center—but people may undoubtedly see one particular mission as ranking among its magna opera. That mission is to eradicate Guinea worm disease (GWD), and frankly, those worms are unpleasant at best.

What is Guinea Worm Disease?

GWD is a parasitic infection in which extremely small worms enter the human body through contaminated water, leading to crippling, painful blisters about a year later when the matured female worm emerges. It has been infecting people since ancient times, and in the mid-1980s, an estimated 3.5 million cases existed across at least 20 countries, including 17 in Africa. In 2019, however, there were only 54 cases in humans.

Success in Reducing GWD

This is thanks largely to the efforts of The Carter Center, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. This partnership has been leading the charge against the disease both in introducing preventative measures in hotspots on the ground in Africa and by raising awareness in the developed world since 1986. Since no vaccine or other modern treatment exists for Guinea worm disease, The Carter Center’s strategies most often include working with health ministries and community-based volunteer groups in order to stop the spread of GWD and bring attention to it via health education.

The attention is important because of the rapid ability of the disease to spread. One missed case can lead to 80+ new infections over one year and delay a country’s ability to control the disease for just as long. This is partly why the WHO has strict criteria when assessing the disease in a given area.

When Can One Consider a Country Free of GWD?

A country must have zero new cases for at least three years for it to receive a declaration of being free of GWD. Despite the rigorous criteria, some countries continue to encounter problems confronting the disease. Chad, for example, has reported almost 2,000 infections in dogs in 2019—a testament to the disease’s stealth and endurance over the years.

In fact, “years” may be an understatement—GWD has emerged in Medieval Middle Eastern and Ancient Egyptian texts under a variety of labels, with some Egyptian mummies even showing evidence of the worm’s presence in their remains. The Old Testament even refers to it as a ‘fiery serpent’ (citing the on-fire feeling when the creature emerges through the skin).

The Correlation Between GWD and Sanitation

In more recent years, the disease received highlight in the early ‘80s as an international threat to clean water—which is where the fight to eliminate the disease originated. Even today, GWD exists primarily in countries—notably Chad and Ethiopia—that consistently rank among the poorest in the world (and are thus most lacking in access to clean water).

The Carter Center has sought to combat this shortfall as well, specifically by introducing a straw-like pipe filter that allows people in affected countries to drink from any water source without fear of contamination.

The eradication of the disease would mean the end of widespread, debilitating illness across several predominantly African nations. Although the fight has gone on for decades, the organizations working to eliminate it now say that the end is in sight. Even Jimmy Carter made his wish—that GWD would go before him—as he was battling cancer a few years ago.

Now, the eradication of all diseases of this sort will be the target of the U.S.’s End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which entered into law earlier in 2020. The goal of the act is to facilitate and coordinate an effective, research-based international effort to end neglected tropical diseases, such as GWD, with special emphasis on impoverished nations.

If the world meets international goals, GWD would become the second human disease (behind smallpox) and the first parasitic disease to experience eradication. It would also be the first disease to disappear without the use of a vaccine or medicine.

– Bardia Memar
Photo: Flickr

the eldersIn 2007, Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel discussed an idea: what if former leaders of the world used their previous experience and influence to establish a non-profit tackling pressing modern issues? The Elders, an independent organization led by global leaders who no longer hold public office and are independent of any government affiliation, was born.

Who Are The Elders?

The first and founding member of the organization was Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, who dedicated his life to ending apartheid. Like Mandela, peace makers, peace builders, social revolutionaries, and pioneering women comprise this group of influential individuals. The current Chair of the Elders is Mary Robinson, the first female Prime Minister of Ireland. Former Presidents of Mexico, Chile, and Liberia are also among the elite group. Currently, 11 individuals comprise the organization, while there are an additional five leaders considered “Elder Emeritus,” including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Focuses of The Elders

The Elders focus on six programming areas. Firstly, the organization works to support international cooperation in solving issues that threaten all global citizens. For example, The Elders believe that nuclear weapons are a threat to all humans on Earth and are working on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The organization believes that the only way to achieve this, and many other overarching goals, is through practical steps and global cooperation. The Elders also use their experience in peace making and building to aid in securing peaceful solutions to conflicts throughout the world. Specific priorities of the Elders include tension and conflict in the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East, and Zimbabwe.

Through global and country-level lobbying and activity, the Elders aim to build support for the importance of universal health coverage. Through keynote speeches and visits to countries in need of healthcare, the Elders are committed to achieving universal health coverage. The organization also believes that global complacency in climate change is one of the largest injustices in human history. To combat climate change, the organization is seeking to ease the transition to a low carbon economy and encourage creative solutions to keeping the planet sustainable.

In response to the number of migrants and refugees, The Elders works to keep struggles of these individuals at the forefront of the news and the minds of the public. Lastly, the group works with governments and countries to ensure that access to justice remains an important human right.

This esteemed group of individuals has massive impacts in unstable regions of the world, from Israel and Palestine to Sudan and South Sudan. Using its six programming focuses, the organization tackles a massive variety of issues, challenging injustice and praising and supporting strong governments and ethical leadership.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

Former presidents on foreign aidIt is not widely known how much foreign aid is being spent as a part of the national budget, especially because statistics and figures can change dramatically under different administrations and eras. The policies of former presidents on foreign aid can reflect the national and international priorities of the nation itself and what the presidents themselves valued more compared to other factors within the federal budget.

5 Former Presidents on Foreign Aid: Who Spent What?

  1. Harry S. Truman is well-known for the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. While the Truman Doctrine was to extend economic and military aid to Greece, the Marshall Plan was more inclusive as it was designed to help Western European countries rebuild after World War II, consisting of $13 billion. Other goals achieved through these means were building markets for U.S. businesses and earning allies during the Cold War.
  2. Ronald Reagan believed in budget cuts domestically, but he was a strong advocate for non-military foreign assistance. He promoted the “0.6% of GDP” minimum to be spent on foreign aid, as he believed that such aid plays a large role in foreign policy strategies. Such strategies were to create stronger U.S. allies and to promote economic growth and democracy globally. Reagan also emphasized that it is an American value to provide foreign assistance based on the U.S. founding beliefs that “all men are created equal.”
  3. Jimmy Carter was an advocate for making human rights a priority of the U.S. foreign policy. Not only did he sustain foreign aid, he also made sure to redirect the routes of such aid away from brutal regimes, such as that of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile-Mariam. He also ensured that foreign aid was an instrument used for luring in more American allies during the Cold War. For instance, by 1980, 75 percent of the total aid designed for Africa were redirected towards the Horn of Africa, as Mengistu was Soviet-backed.
  4. During Barack Obama’s presidency in 2011, figures on foreign aid were reported as being increased by 80 percent when compared to the reports in 2008. Foreign assistance kept increasing from $11.427 billion in 2008 to $20.038 billion in 2010 to $20.599 billion in 2011. During 2011, the aid was split into Economic Support Fund, Foreign Military Financing Program, multilateral assistance, Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and international monetary programs.
  5. In 2002, George W. Bush planned an expansion of 50 percent over the next three years through the Millennium Challenge Account which would provide $5 billion every year to countries where that governed unjustly. Additionally, Bush called for $10 billion to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean over the following five years. There were also emergency funds put aside, consisting of $200 million for famine and $100 million for other complex emergencies.

The policies of former presidents on foreign aid widely reflect their intents and objectives, such as wishing to create more U.S. allies during the Cold War or to stop health epidemics from spreading, like HIV. International assistance can be employed in differing areas of focus that all eventually reach out to help an individual or a community climb out of poverty.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr


Habitat for Humanity has become an international organization well-known for its hands-on approach to eradicating poverty through affordable housing. However, a common misconception is that Jimmy Carter was the founder of Habitat for Humanity.

In reality, the seedling for this idea started on a small intentional community in Americus, Georgia, was cultivated by Millard Fuller, and then blossomed into the international powerhouse of eradicating poverty by Jimmy Carter.

Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm

Clarence Jordan was a farmer and an ordained minister who founded Koinonia Farm in the early 1940s. His early mission of this farm was to live in community with people from all backgrounds and guard against materialism and militarism. He fulfilled this mission by living in community with folk of many backgrounds, continuing to thrive in the midst of communist allegations in the 1950s and racial turmoil in the 1960s.

In these tumultuous times, Clarence Jordan cherished simple living and sought to redefine the farm’s purpose. He planted the seed of “partnership housing” and “Fund for Humanity” in the minds of the community at Koinonia Farm. In fact, Jordan stated in a letter to the Koinonians:

“Partnership Housing is concerned with the idea that the urban ghetto is to a considerable extent the product of rural displacement. People don’t move to the city unless living in the country has become intolerable or impossible. They do not voluntarily choose the degrading life in the big city slums; it is forced upon them. If the land in the country is made available to them on which to build a decent house, … they’ll stay put.”

Millard Fuller and Habitat for Humanity

Millard Fuller cultivated Clarence Jordan’s idea and expanded the goal of eradicating poverty through affordable housing through his endeavors of establishing Habitat for Humanity International. His story of reaching the farm is quite special. In 1965, Millard Fuller visited Koinonia Farm for the first time during a life crisis.

He and his wife had recently left a successful business in Alabama to begin a life of service and fulfillment. Together, Fuller and Jordan brought to fruition the plan of partnership housing through the “Fund for Humanity,” where the “money would come from the new homeowners’ house payments, no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned from fundraising activities. The monies in the Fund for Humanity would be used to build more houses.”

Also, in this concept, volunteers and homeowners would work together to build the homes. Koinonia allotted 42 half-acre house sites in 1968. Sadly, this first project in the fruition of Habitat for Humanity was finished after Clarence Jordan’s death in 1969.

Millard and Linda Fuller continued to live on Clarence Jordan’s legacy. In 1973, they extended the concept of building decent and affordable housing outside of the United States on their trip to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). After three years of work abroad, the Fullers returned ambitious to expand Habitat for Humanity to the international arena and in 1976, Habitat for Humanity International was born.

Jimmy Carter and his Work Project

Former President Jimmy Carter started his famous work project in September 1984 to New York where they served 19 families in need. Since then, they have led 35 work projects, and collaborated with 101,276 volunteers in 14 countries to build, renovate and repair 4,290 homes.

Even as Jimmy Carter battled cancer and other health issues, he still continues to serve in this capacity as a leader of work projects. New York Times reported that during the 2017 build he became dehydrated and was taken to the hospital, but that did not stop him from embarking on his 2018 work project to Indiana later this year.

Since Former President Carter left office, he has dedicated his time to fighting injustices and human rights, such as eradicating poverty through affordable housing.

Habitat for Humanity Today

Today, Habitat for Humanity has grown tremendously — there are local affiliates and ReStore donation centers in 1,400 communities. College campus chapters have even started to develop where college students can take an alternative break trip and serve in one of these communities.

There are national events that focus on certain types of builds, and they even provide financial education for their homeowners. This organization proves how a small idea from one person can turn into an international organization that is eradicating poverty through affordable housing.

– Jenna Walmer

Photo: Flickr

How All Former U.S. Presidents Fight Global PovertyAll five living former presidents met in Texas on October 22, 2017, the first gathering of all past U.S. leaders since 2013. Their mission was to raise funds for hurricane victims in Florida, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The event, titled “Deep from the Heart: One America Appeal,” accumulated $31 million towards helping those in need. The former U.S. presidents fight global poverty because they consider the issue too vital to ignore even in retirement.

Here’s how former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama helped foreign nations since leaving office.

Jimmy Carter

Even at age 93, Jimmy Carter works alongside other volunteers outdoors to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Both Carter and his wife Rosalynn have traveled around the world to raise awareness towards the benefits of affordable housing. Their work encompasses 14 countries and 4,000 built homes.

George Herbert Walker Bush

Both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton fought a vicious campaign against each other for the presidency in 1992. But all wounds were mended by 2005, when the two former presidents visited Asia to raise money in the wake of a deadly tsunami. The two men also raised more than $100 million to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

On the subject of losing the re-election to a member of an opposing party, H.W. Bush commented, “You just can’t go through life with a great deal of bitterness in your heart over something that happened 15 years ago.”

Bill Clinton

In addition to the funds raised after Hurricane Katrina, Clinton established the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in 2005. The CGI gathered Nobel laureates, leading CEOs, philanthropists and more than 200 former heads of state to create Commitments to Action for those in need.

Previous Commitments to Action include an amount of refugees taken in by a country, an installation of solar arrays for a country and advice from major corporations to a country. CGI has aided 180 nations since its genesis.

George W. Bush

October wasn’t the first time the world saw George W. Bush and former U.S. presidents fight global poverty together. Both Bush and Clinton raised funds to provide for Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Bush continued his philanthropy even after his two terms saw the achievement of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals years ahead of schedule.

Barack Obama

Not even a year after leaving office, Barack Obama advocated for the world to address climate change, poverty and disease. “People wildly overestimate what we spend on foreign aid,” he said, “…It’s a good investment to make countries work.” Obama joined philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, Leymah Gbowee and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge nations in uniting to combat global poverty.

Seeing all former U.S. presidents fight global poverty reveals the tenacity within each leader. All five men, however, believe that saving the world is a global effort.

Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr

C. Everett Koop Passes Away at 96

C. Everett Koop, the former Surgeon General of the United States, died yesterday at the age of 96. He is perhaps the most recognizable figure to hold that position because of his impact in raising awareness about the then-emerging disease of AIDS. He served under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush for seven years, while the AIDS/HIV epidemic became a national and international epidemic.

Concerned with healthcare all over the world, he wrote the influential book “Critical Issues In Global Health”, in 2002. It became required reading for anyone wanting to understand the complex needs of providing adequate healthcare in the 21st century, and beyond. He put together experts and professionals from around the world, from different backgrounds, to compile a comprehensive look at the challenges and tools needed for improving people’s health.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the WHO, wrote the first chapter entitled “The Future of the World’s Health.” He states that “our first priority must be to decrease and eliminate the debilitating excess burden of disease among the poor.” Getting people out of poverty is what will lead to the greatest improvements, a critical component being the creation and distribution of low-cost/or free medications.

The book has great charts and statistics to show where progress has happened, and where efficiency can be improved. In China, it is reported that the average life expectancy had increased from 35 years old in 1949 to 70 years in 2002, infant mortality declined from 31.4 per 1000 live births to 20/1000, and maternal mortality reduced from 1500 per 100,000 live births – to 61.9/1000.

In the forward by Jimmy Carter, he says, “the miracles of science could and should be shared equally in the world,” emphasizing rising inequality and its role in the prevalence of the disease.

Though C. Everett Koop had no legal authority to set government policy, Koop described himself as “the health conscience of the country. My only influence is through moral suasion.” He improved the health of millions worldwide.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Annals, USnews.nbcnews.com