GOVERNMENT yesterday launched the third round of the national schools mass drug treatment programme for bilharzia and intestinal worms.
The programme was jointly launched by Health minister
David Parirenyatwa and Education minister Lazarus Dokora at Munyarari Primary School in Mutare.
The programme, which began in 2012, is to be conducted annually for at least five years in response to the high burden of the two neglected tropical diseases in 57 of the country’s 63 districts.
Speaking at the launch, Parirenyatwa said : “The two government ministries and stakeholders will conduct the third nationwide mass drug administration (MDA) starring from the 19th to 23rd of January 2015.
“The MDA will, as usual, target children aged 1 year to 15 years in and out of school in the affected 57 of the country’s 63 districts.”
Parirenyatwa said of the affected 57 districts, all require annual treatments for bilharzia while 31 require treatment for intestinal worms, and 44 require treatments for both conditions.
He said this year they were targeting at least 80% of the children nationwide.
“This year we aim to reach this public health threshold as we have drawn lessons since the inaugural MDA in 2012 which reached 27% of the targeted population, and in 2013 the overall coverage was 54%,” Parirenyatwa said.
Dokora said the programme was a good way to increase access to education.
“One of our concerns as a ministry is to increase access to education and reduce dropout rates among the pupils from ECD A to A Level,” Dokora said.
“As such my ministry has launched several initiatives to attract learners to school and to ensure that they remain within the system.
“It is my fervent hope that the MDA will eliminate or reduce the incidents of bilharzia and intestinal infestation worms amongst those who go through the programme.”
In 2012, 1 169 927 children were immunised under a similar programme.