The Gates Foundation has awarded LCIF $5 million

By Russell Sarver Past international director of Lions Clubs International

Russell Sarver is a Past international director of Lions Clubs InternationalLions Clubs do great work locally and around the world. Below are some examples of what has been accomplished.

Update of measles initiative: Since joining the measles initiative last year, Lions Clubs International Foundation, in a collaborative effort with several leading organizations to eliminate measles, have vaccinated the one-billionth child for measles. Since 2001, the World Health Organization estimates that measles has been reduced by 78 percent. In 2009, almost 900,000 African children died from measles; and in 2010, 164,000 died from measles.

The Gates Foundation has awarded Lions Clubs International Foundation $5 million for the program this year, by matching every $2 that LCIF raises with $1, and they have set a combined goal of providing $15 million toward this initiative.

Lions Clubs making impact in South Asia: Lions helped to raise more than $200 million during Campaign SightFirst II in donations and pledges. These funds already are having a great impact around the world, including South Asia. To date, in South Asia, the program has helped to fund 112 projects totaling $16.9 million. These funds are being used to upgrade or expand 72 clinics and hospitals, provide 496,200 cataract surgeries, and train 96 midlevel ophthalmic personnel. In addition, one eye hospital will be constructed and equipped, and one multiple district diabetic retinopathy program, including equipment and training, has been completed.

LCIF awards grants: At the recent international board of directors meeting in Hong Kong,  55 grants were awarded, totaling $4.09 million and benefiting 915,778 individuals. This includes $1.19 million for the Special Olympics Opening Eyes program.

River blindness eliminated in Colombia: Since 2004, SightFirst has been a contributing partner in the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program (River Blindness) of the Americas, which works to end river blindness in Latin America. As a result of work done in these areas, it is announced that Colombia is now free from river blindness.

LCIF providing famine relief in Africa: Right now, famine is threatening the lives of millions of people in Africa. As always, Lions are bringing aid to the people affected by this disaster. LCIF has approved a $15,000 grant to support famine relief. Lions in Kenya also collected $10,000, and our members around the world are rallying to help. Lions in Sweden are donating $77,000; a Lions Club in Germany has pledged to collect $7,100; and Lions from Ethiopia are also taking part in relief efforts.

Lion help Hault the Transmission of River Blindness

Ecuador has become the second nation in the Americas to halt the transmission of onchocerciasis, according to a press release from the Carter Center, the Atlanta-based sponsoring agency for the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program in the Americas.

The Onchocerciasis Elimination Program in the Americas is a community-based partnership that includes volunteers in the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela and has the support of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pan American Health Organization, the Pan American Health and Education Foundation, Merck, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation, the release said.

Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization, the program has sought to end transmission of river blindness in these six endemic countries by 2012 through health education and the semiannual mass distribution of the anti-parasite drug Mectizan (ivermectin, Merck).

The Ministry of Health has been providing ivermectin to patients in the northern part of Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Province since 1990. In 2008, 27,372 ivermectin treatments were administered to more than 16,000 people there, after which epidemiological studies showed that the transmission of the parasite had been stalled.

Colombia was the first of the six nations to break the transmission of onchocerciasis in 2008.

“With only four countries remaining endemic, it’s critical that elimination efforts and health education are intensified elsewhere in the Americas to reach the regional goal and to avoid future suffering,” Frank O. Richards Jr., MD, director of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program, said in the release.

In order for the World Health Organization to confirm that the parasite has been eliminated, a 3-year surveillance phase will begin in Ecuador this year to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Milestone Toward Ending River Blindness In The Western Hemisphere By 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2009) — An international team of researchers led by Rodrigo Gonzalez of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala reports that the transmission of onchocerciasis or river blindness has been broken in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of the largest endemic areas in the Western Hemisphere to date to stop the transmission of the parasitic disease.

The findings detail the lack of ocular lesions and the absence of infections in school children as well as in the black fly which spreads the disease. Escuintla is now the second of four Guatemalan areas to have stopped the transmission of river blindness.

“In a few short years—with continued hard work and increased political will—river blindness will never threaten the Americas again,” said co-author Frank Richards, MD, of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program. “Ending transmission in Escuintla is an important victory in the campaign to eliminate this devastating disease.”

To date eight of 13 endemic study areas in Latin America have ended the transmission of the disease, largely through health education and semiannual mass distribution of ivermectin—also known as Mectizan® donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

Ivermectin had been given to 85 percent of the at-risk Escuintla population of 50,000 since 2001 by the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MPHSA). In 2007, the MPHSA, together with the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), The Carter Center, the CDC and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala launched an evaluation in Escuintla to determine whether transmission had been interrupted and if semiannual treatment could be suspended, following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). This evaluation led to the recommendation that treatment could be halted. Escuintla has now begun a three-year surveillance phase to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Onchocerciasis, caused by a filarial roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black fly. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and skin disease. Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the OEPA, seeks to stop transmission of O. volvulus throughout the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela by 2012. With one endemic focus, Colombia became the first country in the region to interrupt river blindness transmission in 2007. The Carter Center is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, whose partnership includes the six endemic countries, CDC, PAHO, Merck, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lions Clubs Foundation International.

River blindness under control in Escuintla, Guatemala

An international team of researchers led by Rodrigo Gonzalez of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala reports that the transmission of onchocerciasis or river blindness has been broken in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of the largest endemic areas in the Western Hemisphere to date to stop the transmission of the parasitic disease.

The findings, which detail the lack of ocular lesions and the absence of infections in school children as well as in the black fly which spreads the disease, are published March 31st in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Escuintla is now the second of four Guatemalan areas to have stopped the transmission of river blindness.

“In a few short years-with continued hard work and increased political will-river blindness will never threaten the Americas again,” said co-author Frank Richards, MD, of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program. “Ending transmission in Escuintla is an important victory in the campaign to eliminate this devastating disease.”

To date eight of 13 endemic study areas in Latin America have ended the transmission of the disease, largely through health education and semiannual mass distribution of ivermectin-also known as Mectizan? donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

Ivermectin had been given to 85 percent of the at-risk Escuintla population of 50,000 since 2001 by the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MPHSA). In 2007, the MPHSA, together with the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), The Carter Center, the CDC and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala launched an evaluation in Escuintla to determine whether transmission had been interrupted and if semiannual treatment could be suspended, following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). This evaluation led to the recommendation that treatment could be halted. Escuintla has now begun a three-year surveillance phase to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Onchocerciasis, caused by a filarial roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black fly. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and skin disease. Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the OEPA, seeks to stop transmission of O. volvulus throughout the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela by 2012. With one endemic focus, Colombia became the first country in the region to interrupt river blindness transmission in 2007. The Carter Center is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, whose partnership includes the six endemic countries, CDC, PAHO, Merck, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lions Clubs Foundation International.

http://www.plos.org/