- Category: News and Events
- Published on 24 July 2015
Today, John F. Germ, President-Elect, Rotary International 2016-2017, wrote a Thank You letter to Sir Emeka Offor, acknowledging his unwavering effort towards polio eradication as Nigeria is delisted from endemic nations.
What this means is that, should Nigeria remain free from Wild Polio Virus, we will be declared a polio free nation by 2017. John Germ however pointed out that Afghanistan and Pakistan are yet to attain Nigeria’s milestone while reminding everybody that any polio case anywhere puts the rest of the world at risk.
He urged Sir Emeka Offor not to relent in his commitment towards the fight against Polio, as his effort so far has made it possible for Nigeria to attain zero cases of Polio infections.
Read the letter here
- Category: News and Events
- Published on 18 June 2015
June 12, 2015-
Philanthropist Sir Emeka Offor Donates $10 Million to Accelerate
Jimmy Carter’s Efforts to Help Eliminate River Blindness in Nigeria
ATLANTA…Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and businessman Sir Emeka Offor signed an agreement today for a partnership to eliminate river blindness (onchocerciasis) from seven states in Nigeria where The Carter Center works with the Federal Ministry of Health, including Sir Emeka’s native state, Anambra. The project is made possible by grant support of USD$10 million from the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF). It will help reach the goal of eliminating river blindness from the world’s most endemic country by 2020.
“The new resources from the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation will extend the reach of the Carter Center’s work in South East and South South Nigeria and help accelerate river blindness elimination throughout Nigeria at a pivotal time,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose health programs have actively collaborated with the government of Nigeria to eliminate and control diseases in Africa's most populous country since 1988.
The $10 million multi-year commitment by Sir Emeka is the largest grant from an individual African donor in Carter Center history, and the new resources will fund two-thirds of the Carter Center’s expanded interventions against river blindness in Nigeria to help meet the five-year target to eliminate river blindness nationwide. Since 2013, with an initial gift of $250,000, the SEOF has been a valued partner to the Center's River Blindness Elimination Program, helping to change the face of philanthropy and inspire more African engagement and support.
“I am deeply honored to work closely with The Carter Center, through the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation to help eliminate river blindness in Nigeria,” said Sir Emeka, founder and chairman of the SEOF, a charitable organization focused on health, education, and empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Nigeria has more cases of river blindness than any other country in the world. Yet, we know that with adequate resources, hard work, and perseverance, we can defeat this terrible neglected disease that can steal a person’s ability to see the beauty of the world in which we live and to enjoy a full and active life.”
At the Atlanta-based Carter Center, more than 300 individuals from the Atlanta and international communities attended the official signing ceremony and learned more about river blindness elimination efforts. Spread by the bites of infected black flies that breed in rapidly flowing streams, the river blindness parasite causes dreadful eye and skin disease affecting millions of the poorest people in 36 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Yemen.
TURNING POINTS IN NIGERIA’S EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE RIVER BLINDNESS
The Carter Center began a partnership with Nigeria to reduce the prevalence of neglected diseases, such as river blindness, knowing that the Center’s assistance could make great impact in Africa’s most populous country. Nearly half of the world’s river blindness cases are in Nigeria; it is estimated that up to 31 million Nigerians need treatment to prevent unnecessary suffering caused by this ancient disease.
For nearly two decades, The Carter Center has assisted the Nigerian Ministry of Health in nine states to fight river blindness in this highly endemic country through community-based health education and mass drug administration of Mectizan®, a microfilarial drug donated by the U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck. Until recently, scientific communities widely believed that river blindness could not be eliminated with drugs and health education alone in Africa, in part due to its high prevalence and the challenges to delivering health services in the very remote areas afflicted by the condition.
In February 2013, the Federal Minister of Health of Nigeria announced the country’s bold goal of nationwide elimination of river blindness by 2020. Formally moving from control to elimination is a turning point in Nigeria’s river blindness strategy, requiring that intervention efforts intensify to wipe out once and for all the parasite causing the disease. Unlike in a control program, success in an elimination program means a country’s precious health resources can be freed and reallocated to fight other diseases.
“Since its inception in 1996, the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program has improved coverage, increased the population it assists, and shown great impact on disease prevalence in Nigeria. Today’s unprecedented donation from Sir Emeka Offor Foundation will allow us to ramp up the program and close in on elimination, impacting many more people in southern Nigeria,” said Dr. Emmanuel Miri, country representative of the Carter Center’s health programs in Nigeria. “With SEOF and the Nigerian government, we believe we can surpass the caliber of success we’ve already demonstrated and will meet the 2020 river blindness elimination target in the states where we work.”
In 2014, the Center assisted the Nigerian Ministry of Health to provide health education and Mectizan treatment to nearly 7 million people in more than 16,000 villages.
In accordance with the national plan, the Nigeria Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee was inaugurated in May 2015.
SEOF SPURS INCREASED ACTION
“In South East and South South Nigeria, we still face challenges in the fight against river blindness,” said Dr. Frank O. Richards, Jr., director of the Carter Center’s river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis programs. “We still have evidence that children are being infected, and we can still find infected black flies. So the Center’s strengthened partnership with the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation is really a critical catalyst to further the momentum of stopping this transmission cycle, and in doing so, eliminating river blindness in the areas where we work.”
The elimination strategy requires treating all at-risk populations once or twice a year with Mectizan. The Offor Foundation’s contributions will help implement the necessary elimination strategies, such as better coverage and more frequent treatment, in the southern states of: Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, and Imo.
The Carter Center will enhance elimination efforts by assisting the Nigerian Ministry of Health to increase distribution of Mectizan, moving from once-a-year to twice-a-year treatments whenever necessary and starting drug distribution in previously untreated areas.
Globally, The Carter Center is helping to eliminate river blindness in Uganda, and in areas of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The Center also leads the coalition to eliminate river blindness from the Americas.
The engagement of a wide range of partners remains critical to the elimination of river blindness in Nigeria, including the communities and the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health. Other donors and partners of the Carter Center's River Blindness Program in Nigeria have included Merck and its Mectizan Donation Program; the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHO-World Bank African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation; the Lions Clubs International Foundation; the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); RTI International; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mr. John J. Moores; the former River Blindness Foundation; The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation; Mr. and Mrs. Henry McConnon; the A. G. Leventis Foundation; and many other generous donors and partners.
SIR EMEKA OFFOR FOUNDATION
In the late-1990s, Sir Emeka Offor established the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), a non-profit, charitable organization, with a vision to reduce poverty and create life-improving economic opportunities for those residing in Nigeria’s most marginalized communities through education, health, and empowerment.
- Category: News and Events
- Published on 11 June 2015
Mr. Peter Onuchukwu was a subsistent farmer in Umuowa Ibu village in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo state. He was the bread winner of his family as he sold little remainder of his farm produce in the local market and used the money to purchase what he couldn’t provide for his family. Mr. Peter, a sexagenarian, farmed on the farmland near fast flowing river called Ibii River which the people of the community believe to be more fertile than upland. As a farmer in a community endemic to river blindness, he was greatly exposed to black ants’ bites than others in the community. Like many in his community then, he didn’t know anything about river blindness or what causes it, all they knew was some people get blind, swollen legs, genitals and other parts of their bodies in their locality than in other communities around them. In 2001, Mr. Peter started manifesting different symptoms of Onchocerciasis but due to lack of awareness and access to proper medical checkup, he was treated of malaria leaving the disease to develop fully in his body. He went totally blind in 2006 and that brought untold and sudden hardship to his immediate family which prompted his first son’s dropping out of school to fend for the family. Another tragedy struck when his bread winner son was killed in the north by one of the numerous Boko Haram attacks which left his wife to double as the bread winner and nursing wife.
Mrs. Onuchukwu could not hide her limitations in providing for her four remaining children and her husband in addition to managing her husband’s health challenges. This is a snippet of what people pass through in eastern Nigerian communities with fast flowing streams and rivers where river blindness is still endemic. Onchocerciasis or River blindness is one of the most neglected diseases in tropical regions of the world. It is one caused by a filarial worm (Onchocerca Volvulus) which gets into a person’s body as a result of an infected blackfly’s bite. Fast flowing streams encourage the breeding of female blackflies which spread the disease in endemic regions or communities. When someone who is suffering from river blindness is bitten by a female black fly by sucking the blood, tiny filarial worms are also taken in and the fly becomes infected. Then, when the infected blackfly bites another person, it transfers these tiny worms into their new victim which grows into adult worms. These worms go into lump called nodules and produce other tiny worms and are released to other parts of the body and their movement under the skin cause serious itching. The symptoms of this disease include constant itching of the body, leopard skin, painless swelling under the skin, headache, fever, and ultimately blindness. When eyes are shut and vision disappears, life of dependency begins which the burden often times kills the individual before his time. This neglected disease that hides behind its gradual effect has no place to hide anymore as the founder and sole sponsor of Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), Sir Emeka Offor has decided to eliminate this disease and make Nigeria free from it. On the 12th of June, he will be going into a long term agreement with The Carter Center for this cause. Carter center has been committed to fighting many diseases in many developing countries of the world which Onchocerciasis is one of such diseases. SEOF as a foundation is one that has greatly impacted the lives of individuals in communities and countries as well without limiting itself to any particular area but always looking for ways to bringing succor to suffering millions. It’s no surprise that SEOF is entering into partnership with The Carter Center for the elimination of River blindness in seven remaining states of Nigeria.
The awareness campaign embarked on by Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) on River blindness is yielding results as more people in the endemic states are becoming aware of the disease and are embracing preventive measures being provided which will lead to total elimination of this neglected but pernicious disease. Making a difference is one of the ways of investing one’s life as opposed to spending it. Sir Emeka offor has really invested and still invests his life in many different spheres of the society. Taking up the responsibility of eliminating Onchocerciasis from Nigeria in addition to his commitment to ending polio would appear as a burden, but the great philanthropist, Sir Emeka Offor sees it as life being lived in the right form of it.