‘Bilharzia rampant in Zimbabwe’

via ‘Bilharzia rampant in Zimbabwe’ – The Standard January 25, 2015

The Ministry of Health and Child Care MoHCC), says 57 out of the country’s 63 districts are prone to the deadly bilharzia disease which, if untreated, could cause infertility and other health complications if left untreated.

MoHCC epidemiology and disease control director Portia Manangazira said, according to a survey carried out in the country, it was found out that bilharzia and intestinal worms were prevalent in many provinces.

“We did a national survey in 2010 on bilharzia and intestinal worms which told us that 57 of the 63 districts in the country had a burden of bilharzia, 31 of the districts had a problem of intestinal worms while 44 had a burden of both diseases,” Manangazira said.

“The average problem the country has is 27%, after we went round the schools and we took samples of urine and stool which we tested to find the statistics. In the districts it was realised that there was a burden ranging between 0% to 53%.”

Bilharzia is a disease in humans that is caused by Schistosomes, parasitic worms. It is common in wet conditions. Internationally, over one billion people are at risk of contracting the disease with over 300 million infected. In Zimbabwe, over three million young people are at risk.

Bilharzia and intestinal worms are among the eight neglected tropical diseases (NTD) identified to be afflicting people in Zimbabwe. Others are trachoma, Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis), anthrax, rabies, leprosy, sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis), bilharzia and intestinal worms.

Manangazira said in term of intestinal worms Chikomba in Mashonaland East had the highest with 53% and in terms of bilharzia Shamva in Mashonaland Central had the highest prevalence rate with 62,5%.

“There were about five districts with a high trend,” Manangazira said.

“Seven districts in Matabeleland South province had very low incidences with others recording zero. There is need for early treatment and government decided to do a mass drug administration treatment programme for five years since 2012.”

Manangazira said there was a mass drug administration in schools since 2012.

This year’s programme of schools mass drug administration was launched on Monday last week at Munyarari Primary School in Mutare. Speaking at the launch, minister of Health and Child Care David Parirenyatwa said they would have started the programme earlier if it were not for financial challenges the country was facing.

“We have had resource challenges and that is why we have not been able to reach out to our people,” Parirenyatwa said.

“In the first year we managed to reach out to 27% of the population, in the second year we reached out to about 53% of the people we had targeted. This time around we are targeting to reach out to at least 80% of the population. We are targeting about 3.3 million children countrywide.”

Government is working with Unicef, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Vision among other partners to fight against bilharzia.