The Ministry of Health will soon conduct a second countrywide mapping exercise to assess the progress made following a de-worming campaign that started in 2008.
In 2008, the ministry, in partnership with the Access Project, conducted a national prevalence survey on schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthes (STHs), commonly known as intestinal worms, which showed that on average, 65.8% of school age children were infected with one or more STHs.
According to Dr. Thierry Nyatanyi, an official from TRAC Plus, Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign against worms and schistosomiasis started immediately.
“We recently concluded the campaign at Nkombo Island where we administered de-worming drugs to over 16,000 people,” Nyatanyi said.
He added that the drugs were given to all people living on the island, apart from children below five years, and that the campaign involved administering hygiene and sanitation lessons.
“Soon we will conduct a countrywide assessment of the impact made by the mass drug administering to know the exact number of people suffering from the disease and areas where we need to make quick interventions,” said Nyatanyi.
As a way forward, Nyatanyi said that it was emphasized that sensitizing children, through school health programmes, and community health workers’ advocacy for proper sanitation and use of clean water, as well as behavioural change, would limit infections amongst children.
According to the WHO, schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, is a disease caused by flatworms which are released by freshwater snails, penetrate the skin of people in the water.
In the body, they develop into adult schistosomes, which live in the blood vessels.
“Those living around water bodies stand a high risk of getting infected, that is why we insist on sanitation,” said Nyatanyi.