Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Sir Emeka Offor Meet in London

Jimmy Carter and Sir Emeka OfforLONDON, June 3, 2014 - The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation and the Carter Center have strengthened ties to wipe out onchocerciasis (river blindness) disease in Nigeria. The Executive Vice Chair of the Chrome Group and founder of the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, Sir Emeka Offor, met for the first time with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, in London recently to discuss their respective organizations’ partnership to eliminate onchocerciasis, which they both agreed is an often neglected disease that causes immense suffering in Nigeria.

During the meeting, the teams explored ways to strengthen their combined efforts to stop the needless suffering caused by the preventable parasitic disease. Onchocerciasis accounts for 40 percent of the global disease burden.

"Together, the Offor Foundation, The Carter Center, the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health and State Ministries of Health are working to wipe out this disease from seven states in Southeast and South South Nigeria (Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, and Imo states)," the statement said.

Last year, Sir Offor donated a total of $250,000 to The Carter Center. Earlier in the year, a team of field scientists from the Carter Foundation paid a courtesy visit to Sir Offor’s corporate headquarter in Abuja, where he explained his intentions to support the efforts of the Center towards their health program in Nigeria.

“His donation has made it possible for us to start considering completely eliminating River Blindness or Onchocerciasis from the entire country," President Carter said in response to a question on Sir Offor’s donation. "If it hadn’t been for his generosity, that would not have been good as a culmination of a dream. Because of his contribution, and his interest in the disease and his vision, and so we said we have to try to do this and the Minister of Health and the state have to agree. When that happens, we will make an announcement that we are about to get rid of the entire disease from the country within the next seven years.”

On the subject of scaling up the treatment modality for RB in Nigeria, President Carter said, “In the past, in Nigeria, we have only given treatment once a year, and that prevents you from going blind, and you still have itching, you still have adult worms in the body, you still have discolored skin. But that’s very valuable to the people so you won’t have to go blind. But by given 2 to 4 doses per year, then we can get rid of it forever."

Dr. Hopkins then said, “The Federal government of Nigeria is still deciding on a policy about possibly given twice or more per year."

President Carter said, “We have to get the government to agree. But I think because of his (Sir Offor) generosity that makes it possible for the state and for us to both decide that we will do it."

There has not been any official statement yet from both organizations as to the outcome of the meeting, but the SEOF views the meeting as very productive and promising for the goal of RB elimination in Nigeria.