Rwanda’s war against neglected tropical diseases

Peter Rutebuka, a farmer in Nyamagabe, has five children. In a recent medical survey, all his children were diagnosed with soil-transmitted helminths (STH), worms.

Peter Rutebuka, a farmer in Nyamagabe, has five children. In a recent medical survey, all his children were diagnosed with soil-transmitted helminths (STH), worms.

Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion people are infected with soil-transmitted helminths (STH) and more than 200 millions are infected with schistosomiasis.

Prof. Dr. Michael Kramer, the Director General of TRAC-Plus, Centre for Infections and Disease control says that soil-transmitted worms are highly distributed all over the country with almost two-thirds of children tested having one or more.

In fact more than 75 per cent of children in Rwanda are believed to be infected with intestinal worms.

In Sub Saharan Africa, such neglected tropical diseases (NTDs like STH, schistosomiasis, trachoma and lymphatic filariasis, have infected and killed millions yet they are avoidable.

Over 5 million people are infected with anyone of the NTD’s countrywide.

“They are called NTDs because other diseases have more attention and funding,” Dr. Kramer told The New Times.

Since last year, Rwanda has embarked on a clear strategy to treat these diseases. Different surveys have been carried out by the Ministry of Health, TRAC-plus and Access Project, results from the survey reveal that a high numbers of people are affected with worms.

Last week, the partner organisations while releasing research results revealed that most of the people living around fresh water bodies where water snails and hose parasites breed, suffer from intestinal or bilharziasis.

This is a parasitic disease caused by trematode worms (flukes).  According to Dr. Kramer, Rwanda’s fight against these diseases has already commenced through administering mass drug treatment.

“With schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), we started with areas around lakes and apparently most of the people have been treated,” he said.

The partners have also worked with district hospitals to ensure that after every 6 months, people countrywide are treated against neglected tropical diseases.

Medical experts recommend that the public should also engage in prevention of STH infections through practicing proper hygiene.

Many children get such infections as a result of eating unwashed garden foods and practicing improper disposal of feaces that carry the worms which cause the infection. The public should also have a change of mindset and wash their hands, as a major tool of fighting these infections.

UNICEF and Geneva Global are among the major funders of this initiative. 

Contact: keishaed@yahoo.com

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