THE Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Higherlife Foundation have kick-started the National Mass Treatment for bilharzia and intestinal worms as a follow-up to the healthcare worker’s Mass Drug Administration (MDA) training exercise which concluded last week in Shamva and Mount Darwin.
By Michael Gwarisa
The National Mass Treatment exercise started in Mashonaland Central Province this week in (Shamva and Mount Darwin). WHO started their support visit at Chitse Clinic in Mt Darwin where WHO is providing on the job support to the MoHCC in distributing free deworming medication and treatment for Bilharzia and intestinal worms in the areas where prevalence of these Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is very high.
WHO’s on the job support is also focusing on ensuring the outreach points are complying to WHO, COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Measures such as having hand washing stations, maintaining a 1 metre social distance, regular disinfection of surfaces but to name a few.
In an interview with HealthTimes, WHO Communications Officer, Tatenda Chimbwanda said the program is targeting mainly the 1-15 years olds and not less than 300 000 are set to get treatment in the two districts of Shamva and Mount Darwin.
Following the MDA training in Shamva and Mt Darwin, the Mass Drug Administration Started this week on the 21st is will be running up to the 30th of September. WHO is supporting the direct implementation of it in Mt Darwin and Shamva and the rest of the districts are going to be financially supported by Higherlife Foundation.
“WHO will continue throughout to provide technical guidance and also the deworming medication we get it for free and this medication comes from our donor called Expanded Special Project for Elimination of NTDs (ESPEN,” said Chimbwanda.
Areas likes Shamva which is a mining district in Mashonaland Central Province has a high burden of bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and intestinal worms (soil transmitted helminths). The high prevalence is mainly attributed to poor sanitation and gold panning activities along contaminated river banks. Most of the activities Shamva residents indulge in are centered around the river. For instance, children in the villages spend most of their time playing in the river. The district continues to rank high, sitting at number two on districts with a high burden of bilharzia in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has been conducting the National Mass Treatment Campaigns for the past seven years in 57 endemic districts among 63 rural based districts and metropolitan provinces including, Harare, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo. WHO has been providing deworming medicines (praziquantel and albendazole) annually for over seven successive years in these districts. The National Mass Treatment remain guided by WHO strategies to address the burden of NTDs, which include preventive chemotherapy.
The National Treatment Campaign, treats everyone in high burdened areas like they have bilharzia and gives them medication. That way the whole community is protected against further infection.
‘’In Zimbabwe the two NTDs of public health significance are bilharzia and intestinal worms. Bilharzia ranks among the top ten causes of hospital admissions in the country, adds Chimbwamda.
Although Zimbabwe has not eliminated bilharzia completely, the country has made great progress in reducing their burden as a result of the National Treatment Campaigns conducted every year. The campaigns ensure people in hard to reach places receive the deworming medication without having to go to their local clinics.
According to the MDAs impact assessment done in 2018, Zimbabwe has had an 87.3% prevalence reduction of bilharzia. This has reduced down from a national prevalence of 23% in 2010 to 5% in 2018.