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Zimbabwe Rolls Out Another Mass Drug Scheme to Curb Bilharzia

  • Tatenda Gumbo

The ministries of Health and Education on Monday launched this year’s national mass drug administration program in Mutare, aiming to distribute drugs and treat millions of children suffering from bilharzia and intestinal worms.

The program now in its third year will cater for school children this whole week. The ministry is expecting to reach all children between aged between one and 15 in most parts of the country.

Bilharzia is a disease caused by parasitic worms.

According to the Ministry of Health, 57 of 60 districts in the country have a high prevalence of bilharzia, while 31 districts have a problem of intestinal worms.

About 44 of the districts are co-endemic with both diseases highly prevalent.

Dr. Portia Manangazira, head of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health, told VOA Studio 7 parents are expected to send their children to the drug treatment centres this week.

“The parents and guardians and even community members must also do their preparations for this program, the first being it’s very important that children are in a stable and healthy condition as possible, in other words we don’t want sick children to be sent to the MDA points. If a child is eligible but not feeling well or they are taking other medication that information must be provided.”

Dr. Manangazira said the ministry advises children to eat well, but said the MDA points will provide meals for those children who fail to eat.

“Finally we also want them to read around and get adequate information in the past we have had a lot of myths and misconceptions,” she said.

Health experts say chronic infections and complications associated with bilharzia and intestinal worms have contributed to poverty in some of the communities through impairing cognitive performance in children and reducing the work capacity for adults.

Approximately 300 million people worldwide are infected by the disease. It is common in the tropics where ponds, streams and irrigation canals harbor bilharzia-transmitting snails.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health says malaria remains a major threat in the country, especially to pregnant women and children under the age of five.

Speaking last week at the Southern African Development Community’s Malaria Day, Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said the ministry is scaling up efforts to combat the disease.

He said 63% of people in southern Africa are affected by malaria and in Zimbabwe indications are that the worst affected areas are Binga, Hwange, Mutoko and Mount Darwin.

According the World Health Organization World Malaria Report 2014, there were an estimated 198 million malaria cases worldwide in 2013 and an estimated 584,000 deaths, 90% which occurred in Africa.