1.8 Mill children receive bilharzia treatment

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Child receiving her deworming medication during the campaign

BY GARY GERALD MTOMBENI/ TERRY MADYAUTA/VANESSA GONYE
ATLEAST 1.8 million children between 5 and 15 years received treatment for bilharzia last month during a campaign run by the Health and Child Care ministry.

The ministry was partnered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Higher Life Foundation (HLF) during the 7-day mass treatment campaign in 43 districts.

Bilharzia, sometimes known as snail fever or schistosomiasis, is caused by waterborne snails carrying parasites that penetrate the skin and can cause distended bellies, malnutrition, and if untreated, can damage women’s reproductive organs, tripling the risk of HIV.

“At least 1.8 million received free oral treatment for schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and soil transmitted helminthiases (intestinal worms) during a mass treatment exercise conducted from 3-9 April 2022,” the WHO said.

“Although the country has not yet eliminated these diseases completely, the impact assessment results of 2019 shows that the prevalence of these NTDs have been reduced by 80% and fewer districts will be needing Mass Drug Administration (MDA) each year going forward.”

Health experts urged the government to eliminate NDTs in their totality through several disease preventive interventions.

“There is a need to carry out health education and community awareness campaigns on NTDs especially on the common conditions such as bilharzia that is still prevalent among school children,” Itai Rusike, executive director, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) said.

In an unrelated case, the Health ministry also partnered with the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZAC) in a COVID-19 vaccination drive targeting churches amid fears of a fifth wave.

The country has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases with the Cabinet on Tuesday saying it will tighten previous regulations aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

“We had some churches that even discouraged vaccination so we are now aimed at changing that perspective because vaccination has proved to be effective,” ZCA director Useni Sibanda said.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has expressed fears that the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine will have major ramifications for the global economy, which is just recovering from the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Steeper price increases for food and fuel may spur a greater risk of unrest in some regions, from Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America to the Caucasus and Central Asia, while food insecurity is likely to further increase in parts of Africa and the Middle East.”