$3.5m to fight disease in 4.7m children

via $3.5m to fight disease in 4.7m children | The Zimbabwean 30.10.13 by Thabani Dube

At least $3.5m has been invested in a mass drug administration (MDA) project to eliminate major diseases, including bilharzia and intestinal worms among 4.7m children in Zimbabwe, says the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Paul Chimedza.

“In the first MDA, conducted in 2012, more than 1.1m children in 37 districts were given the medicines, as the country only managed to get 2.5m tablets,” said Chimedza. ““But for this 2013 MDA, we have received over 11.5m tablets of Praziquantel and 5.5m tablets of Alberndazole – enough to reach over 4.7 million children in all 63 rural districts, including metropolitan provinces Harare and Bulawayo.”

He said about $2.5m was used to buy the medicines and $1m went towards training health staff and teachers, as well as for fuel and logistics.

The MDA programme is meant to combat the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Other NTDs affecting Zimbabweans are leprosy, blinding trachoma, elephantiasis, sleeping sickness, plague, rabies and anthrax. Chimedza said the control of NTDs was the responsibility of every sector; hence a cross-sector response was called for.

“UNICEF procured 8.2m and 5.1m tablets of Praziquantel and Albendazole respectively while the World Health Organisation made 3.5m tablets of Praziquantel available, World Vision provided 5,500 units of Praziquantel and food for the pre-MDA meal,” he said. “Health workers, teachers and communities should strive to ensure that all eligible children receive treatment without discrimination,” he added.

According to a 2010 national survey, 5.8 per cent of the population was affected by worms and 22.7 by bilharzia. The survey noted that the diseases were rife in 57 of the country’s 63 districts, with some recording prevalence rates as high as 62.3 per cent for bilharziasand 45.5 per cent for worms.

The mass treatment began on October 28 and runs until November 2 at the country’s 1,550 health facilities, designated schools and other community centres. Zimbabwe is set to carry out a mapping exercise for another disease, lymphatic filariasis, before the end of the year.