MAJORITY of Zimbabweans who grew up in communal areas or even those who were born in farming communities when Zimbabwe’s commercial farming was still at its peak should be familiar with diseases such as Bilharzia, worms and Trachoma.
By Michael Gwarisa
Owing to efforts from government and the donor community, steps to mitigate the spread of such diseases have been put in place trough interventions such as mass drug administrations, vaccinations, dispensing of oral tablets to get rid of gut worms, fumigating stagnant water ponds amongst a host of other interventions.
From a distance, it appears as if the situation is under control and Zimbabwe is no longer under siege from these Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) yet truth of the matter is at least 55 districts out of 60 are facing an NTDs threat.
Even though the nation has recorded some successes with regards to reducing the scourge of these Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), the majority of Zimbabweans residing in marginalised communal and or farming communities are still faced with a Sisyphean task of dealing with these marauding ailments plaguing their communities.
NTDs such as Elephantiasis, Trachoma, Schistosomiassis, Soil Transmitted Helminthiasis (STH) among others are some of leading NTDs in Zimbabwe with Schistosomias, Worms and Malaria being leading infections amongst individuals from vulnerable communities.
Director Epidemiology and Disease Control, Dr Portia Managazira said there is neglect for NTDs across board and Zimbabwe’s health system has actually neglected the disease while focus is being given to other diseases such as HIV, TB and Malaria.
“There is neglect across the board, donors, government and even fellow professionals apart from just learning about the diseases and passing exams, they don’t quite relate it to the effects of the diseases. The health system itself has neglected the diseases, many of the children would go to the teacher to say I see worms when I pass stool and blood when I pass urine so these are really diseases that dot really need us as clinicians to tell you that there is something wrong
“So it is really the neglect in terms of the drivers that cause or harbor these NTDs. Are they toilets in that area and this is part of the reason why children look at their stool because there are no Blair toilets? There is neglect in terms of the environmental factors, children and water contact activities are rife, children are just getting into these water bodies infested with parasites,” said Dr Manangazira.
Accordning to a survey conducted by a team of Zimbabwean Epidemiologits, Schistosomiasis was more prevalent country-wide (22.7%) than STH (5.5%). The prevalence of S. haematobium was 18.0% while that of S. mansoni was 7.2%. Hookworms were the most common STH with a prevalence of 3.2% followed by A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura with prevalence of 2.5% and 0.1%, respectively.
University of Zimbabwe Lecture in the faculty of medicine, Professor Nicholas Midzi said NTDs affect mostly those from poor and low economic backgrounds and the biggest threat in Zimbabwe was coming from Schistosomiasis (Bilharzi) which affects the bladder and has resulted in increased cases of bladder cancer in Zimbabwe.
“These are some of the diseases which affect the marginalised and those of low social economic status in our societies. These at times may even co-infect the individual sharing with HIV, TB and STDs.
“Schistosomiasis can be diagnosed by a presence of blood in the urine and this NTD also has seen an increase in cancers of the bladder as a result. There other public health issues caused by this Schistosomisis include stunting in children and also it is at times associated with or the transmission of HIV if the lesions are bleeding and also ectopic pregnancies,” said Professor Midzi.
Ellen Agler Holding Her New Book
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for End Fund, Ellen Agler has launched a book titled “Under The Big Tree” which talks of moving and extraordinary stories from the movement to end Tropical Diseases.