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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Supports International Task Force for Disease Eradication

ATLANTA, GA.... The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $741,000 grant for the reactivation of the International Task Force for Disease Eradication (ITFDE). Based at The Carter Center in Atlanta, the ITFDE will evaluate the most likely disease candidates for eradication, with suggestions on research that could increase opportunities for eradicating and controlling selected diseases.

"The work of this task force is invaluable in planning the future. Already we have seen substantial progress in eradicating lethal and debilitating diseases around the globe," said Dr. Bill Foege, Health Advisor to the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "I look forward to the day Guinea worm and other diseases become footnotes in our history books."

An initial Task Force, also established by The Carter Center, operated from 1989 - 1993 and identified six potentially eradicable diseases, including Guinea worm, polio and lymphatic filariasis. The Carter Center currently leads a worldwide coalition that has achieved a 98 percent reduction in the number of cases of Guinea worm disease, working in close collaboration with ministries of health in endemic countries, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, World Health Organization, the World Bank, and UNICEF. The Center also has a pilot project to combat lymphatic filariasis in two states of Nigeria, the African country with the world's second highest number of people infected.

"A decade after beginning our initial work, it is exciting to consider what this grant will mean for the many people who could be freed permanently from debilitating diseases as a result of better access to new tools and information that the ITFDE will identify and marshal," former President Jimmy Carter said.

According to Donald Hopkins, M.D., Carter Center associate executive director in charge of health programs, "With the Foundation's generous support, the ITFDE will work in five areas: analysis, intervention, demonstration, training, and advocacy. For example, we will re-consider some of the diseases we examined a decade ago to judge whether new tools or approaches are needed to begin or continue the eradication process."

Since the ITFDE last met, there have been two major international conferences on disease eradication. In addition, there has been progress against some of the diseases. In the areas of intervention and demonstration, the new ITFDE will focus on the final push to eradicate Guinea worm disease, the possibility of turning the Center's river blindness control initiative into an eradication program, and the expansion of the Center's programs to fight lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and trachoma in parts of Africa and Latin America.

The Carter Center is a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health. For more information about the Center and its programs, including health initiatives, visit . The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based Foundation has an asset base of $21 billion. Preventing deadly diseases among poor children by expanding access to vaccines, and developing vaccines against malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, are central priorities.

Other major efforts include extending unprecedented opportunities for learning by bringing computers with Internet access to every eligible library in the U.S. and Canada, and providing scholarships to academically talented minority students in the U.S. with severe financial need through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program ( For complete information and grant guidelines, visit

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