Carter personally thanks Hydro

December 10, 2002, 00:00 CET

Former US President and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn personally thanked Hydro on Monday for helping to eradicate the dreaded Guinea Worm parasite in the developing world.

"We're very grateful to you for being a partner," Carter remarked in reference to Hydro's support of the Carter Center project to make and distribute PVC drinking straws with filters that screen the Guinea worm from drinking water.

President Carter founded the Atlanta, Georgia-based Carter Center in 1982. The foundation is active in issues involving peace, human rights and health care in 65 countries.

In Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the 78-year old former president told a press conference earlier in the day "I consider that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to me primarily because of the last 20 years of effort by the Carter Center."

Highly effective

The Guinea worm eradication project has been one of the Carter Center's most successful. Millions of straws have so far been made and dispensed to people in Africa, especially Sudan. In 1986, approximately 3.6 million people were afflicted by the parasite, which causes an extremely painful, debilitating illness. The World Bank estimated some USD 1 billion in annual lost production due to the Guinea worm in the early 1980s. The straws have since helped diminish the malady by 98 percent.

"In Nigeria, there were 650,000 cases in 1989. Now there are 3,000. In Uganda, there were some 127,000 cases reported in 1992. This year, six," said Dr. Anders Seim, executive director of Health & Development International, and program manager of the joint straw/filter effort with Hydro and Norwegian Church Aid in Sudan, one of the worm's last strongholds.

Hydro help

Hydro has worked with President Carter on various projects in the past, including the Sasakawa Africa Association's "Africa 2000" program, targeting the reduction of poverty and environmental destruction. Front figures were Carter and fellow Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.

Hydro now plays an active role in the Sudan effort. Employees in Hydro Polymers, a unit within Hydro Petrochemicals, began mustering fiscal support among their ranks in 2001. They had previously contributed some 2,000 hours of their wages to build a clean drinking water facility in Eritrea. Management responded by matching the sum in donated materials to make the straws.

Hydro's contribution to Sudan demands "less than half a minute of working time, but generates enormous social value," said Hydro Polymers public affairs manager Mikkel Heiberg Storm.

"There are two reasons why we're here today, first to tell President Carter we want to follow the project all the way through until the worm is gone in Sudan, and second, to congratulate him on the Peace Prize, on behalf of all labor union members in Norway," said Hydro Polymers union leader John Øivind Selmer.

"We want to follow this through and see results," affirmed Hydro Polymers president Anders Hermansson. "I think President Carter's being here shows he considers the project truly valuable."

"This is a great partnership of management and labor," Carter commented.

Many ways

"The many ways this project has impacted people's lives you can't imagine," remarked Dr. Donald Hopkins, associate executive director for control and eradication of disease at the Carter Center, and prime mover for the global Guinea worm eradication program. 

Others who have contributed to making that impact are Norwegian Church Aid representative Atnaf Kebreab, an Eritrean native who established a cottage industry in Nairobi, Kenya, to assemble the straws. The endeavor employs some 1,300 local people. Husband Gaim Kebreab, Norwegian Church Aid's regional director for eastern Africa, is credited with helping persuade Hydro to join the Guinea Worm eradication effort. Dr. Seim and colleague Dr. Harald Siem initially introduced the idea of supporting the Guinea worm project to Hydro in the late 1990s. 

The Carter Center