Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn were honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Sept. 19 for their humanitarian efforts, and in particular their work to eliminate “neglected tropical diseases” such as malaria, river blindness and Guinea worm disease.
Guinea worm disease has no cure and no vaccine. It is spread by drinking contaminated water or eating undercooked fish. Once ingested, the worms cause fever, swelling and painful blisters. The disease has largely been ignored by Westerners, as it occurs mainly in poor and underdeveloped places.
Thanks to the Carter Center, however, guinea worms have reached near-extinction.
“I would like to see Guinea worm completely eradicated before I die,” Carter said at a 2015 press conference. “I’d like for the last Guinea worm to die before I do. I think right now we have 11 cases. We started out with 3.6 million cases.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shared a video on their Facebook page bringing light to the Carters’ global advocacy work:
In addition to battling the Guinea worm, the Carters have also worked to promote peace and conflict resolution in places like the Middle East and Bosnia.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also honored Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for his universal healthcare efforts, and U2 lead singer Bono received the Goalkeepers Voice Award for his global fight against AIDS and poverty as the cofounder of the organizations (RED) and ONE.
Because the former president and former first lady could not attend the event to accept the honor, the Goalkeepers Lifetime Achievement Award was accepted on their behalf by both their grandson Jason Carter, the chair of the Carter Center Board of Trustees, as well as Paige Alexander, the CEO of the Carter Center.
The former President will turn 99 years old on Oct. 1. In February, the brain cancer survivor decided to enter home hospice care instead of spending more time in the hospital. His family expected he had only a handful of days left, but he has surprised everyone by thriving for months.
In fact, Alexander told the New York Times that he is still thinking about his advocacy work, particularly the Guinea worm.
“He wasn’t asking about politics or the economy,” she told the Times when reflecting on a recent phone conversation she had with him. “He just wanted to know what the Guinea worm count was.”
Any products or services mentioned above were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.