Health and Child Care Deputy Minister, Dr. Paul Chimedza, says this year’s National Mass Drug Administration program was a huge success despite three deaths and reports of side effects in some parts of the country.
Dr. Chimedza said the program got overwhelming response from parents and children and will be extended in some areas to ensure everyone eligible is covered.
He said it was unfortunate some parents had lost their children in the process and ministry is investigating the matter to find out whether the drugs were responsible for the deaths.
Dr. Chimedza said one of the three children was buried before Health Ministry officials arrived for investigations.
He said the drugs used under the program have been tested and used for many years worldwide.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care last week embarked a mass drug administration exercise aiming to distribute 11.5 million donated drugs to treat 4.3 million children for bilharzia and intestinal worms.
The ministry is hoping to reach all children between aged between one and 15 in Zimbabwe’s 63 districts.
In Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West police spokesperson Inspector Clemence Mabgweazara confirmed that a child died this week after taking medication for preventing bilharzia and intestinal worm infections. Inspector Mabgweazara said people should not be quick to link child deaths with these drugs, noting that they should wait for post-moterm results.
Simbarashe Kamonzo of Masiyarwa village died after complaining of a headache, hours after taking praziquantel.
Simbarashe was among many other children who were administered with the drug. Now, some parents say their children were forced to take the drugs without their consent. Faith Manyere is one of them.
Another Chinhoyi woman, who refused to be identified, said the government should test the drugs before giving them to their children.
One of the affected children, Alvin Chisango, who is in Grade Zero, said he experienced some pains after taking the bilharzia pill.
Despite this outcry from parents, the government is adamant that it will continue to administer the drugs. The mass drug immunization programme was supposed to end on Friday but health officials said it will be extended for a few more days.
Meanwhile, the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation in conjunction with Celebration Health and Citihope International today donated medicine worth more than $2 million to the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
The medicine will be distributed to Chikurubi Maximum Prison Hospital, Chitungwiza and Harare Central and Ingutsheni hospitals, among others.
Dr. Chimedza commended the organisations saying the donation was timely as it came when government is failing to provide adequate medicine and surgical supplies, a situation that is compromising the quality of health care provision.
Chief Executive officer Paul Moore of Citihope International said the second consignment of medicine worth more than $5 million will arrive in Zimbabwe this weekend.
The donated medicines are used for treating ailments like high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, blood clot, Type 2 diabetes and psychosis, among others.
The three organisations have since 2009 donated medicine and medical equipment worth more than $30 million to the Ministry of Health and Child Care.