The health ministry will tomorrow launch a three-day countrywide campaign against communicable and non-communicable ailments.
Maurice Gatera, the head of immunisation department at the ministry, said the bi-annual exercise will address malaria, malnutrition, birth control, measles, rubella and cervical cancer, among others. The drive will target largely mothers, pregnant women, and children under five years of age.
“We shall embark on screening, vaccination, treatment and sensitisation on the target ailments,” Gatera said at a news conference last Friday
“Over 2,000 sites will be targeted and over 45,000 community based health workers will be involved in this campaign country wide,” he added.
He pointed out that the drive will be used create awareness on the ongoing 1,000-day campaign against malnutrition.
“It’s high time each home introduced a kitchen garden, and children should be given priority as far as proper nutrition is concerned. This will be a sure way to defeat malnutrition,” Gatera said.
Gatera said malnutrition-related screening will continue for the rest of the year, even after this exercise.
“Over 1.7 million children still have to be screened country wide, and this cannot be done in just three days,” he said.
He added that while cervical cancer is a growing threat, there is still low awareness about it.
“Those who acquire the disease sometimes mistake it for witchcraft. This campaign is therefore an opportunity to take the message to grassroots.”
Gatera added that, on average, 150,000 people are vaccinated against cervical cancer annually.
He said other areas to be covered include; promotion of hygiene, sanitation, breast feeding, and distribution and administration of de-worming drugs.
Alex Mucumbitsi, the head of the nutrition department at the ministry, said 44 per cent of children under five are stunted because of malnutrition.
He pointed out that the drive will not only give chance to malnutrition patients to get treatment, but will also help in getting latest statistics per district so as to know which areas need more intervention.
“A study carried out recently showed that 38 per cent of children below five years, and 17 per cent of pregnant women are exposed to anemia,” Mucumbitsi said.
He said Vitamin A pills will be given out to mothers and children during the campaign so as to help enrich their blood content.
Dr Eugene Ruberanziza, the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NPD) project manager, said the campaign will help supplement the usual government efforts on malaria screening and treatment.
“Much as the emphasis is on women and children, the campaign on malaria will target everyone. We will encourage families to sleep under treated mosquito nets, clear bushes in the neighbourhood, and eliminate stagnated water sources.”
According to Ruberanziza, 1.4 per cent of children under five and 0.7 per cent of pregnant mothers are still exposed to malaria.
Janvier Kamana, a community based health worker attached to Ruli Hospital in Gakenke District, said the move will help save citizens from ailments they previously ignored at their own peril.
“For instance very many people in my area are prone to abdominal worms, but a few of them have considered going to nearby health facilities to pick de-worming drugs. So since this campaign will get to the grassroots level, it presents many more people with opportunity to get treatment,” Kamana said.
Annete Uwase, a mother of four and resident of Karama Sector in Nyagatare District, said the campaign will help reduce a backlog of patients, especially at some health facilities.
“It’s common to find many people lining up at a health clinic just to test for malaria. Having this campaign targeting communities will not only be convenient but will also reduce pressure on medical facilities,” Uwase said.
She added that during the campaign, she will take her two daughters for cervical cancer screening and vaccination.