Government has launched a mass drug administration campaign against bilharzia and intestinal worms to protect 7.5 million people nationwide.
The campaign is targeting children between the age of five and 14 years in 25 districts and people aged 15 years and above in 10 hotspot districts.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) programme manager Lazarus Juziwelo says bilharzia and intestinal worms are dangerous conditions to both children and adults when not treated; hence, the mass drug administration.
He said the campaign for children is already underway and is targeting 4.2 million children.
Said Juziwelo: “For those above the age of 14, the exercise will take place from the second week of January and will target 3.3 million people in hot spot districts. About K700 million has been invested in the exercise which is aimed at suppressing the disease impact to one percent and below.”
Among the beneficiary districts is Dowa where over 200 000 children are being targeted.
Dowa district NTDs programme coordinator Gift Banda said the exercise is progressing well as more children are visiting the centres to receive treatment.
He said the campaign, which is targeting 201 000 children, had covered almost half of the targeted group by Thursday.
“The programme is assisting a lot. If not treated, one can become infertile or
even die. So, it is a crucial exercise that will help save lives,” said Banda. even die. So, it is a crucial exercise
He said the mass drug administration will take place in all districts except Likoma, Ntchisi and Salima.
The first phase, targetting children, was conducted from December 21 until yesterday.
The second phase will target people aged 15 and above, and will be conducted early next year in hotspot districts of Nkhotakota, Dedza, Machinga, Mangochi, Zomba, Chiradzulu, Mulanje, Thyolo, Chikwawa and Nsanje.
Bilharzia is one of the NTDs endemic in Malawi, the others being trachoma, river blindness, elephantiasis and intestinal worms.
I t s p r e a d s t h r o u g h contaminated water and if not treated, it can cause anaemia, liver damage, cancer of the urinary bladder, cancer of the cervix, stunting, organ enlargement and genital lesions.
In 2015, a study by Uniting To Combat NTDs revealed that Malawi could save $415 million (about K312 billion) between 2015 and 2030 if it meets World Health Organisation 2020 targets for controlling or eliminating the five most common NTDs in the country.
NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect over 1.4 billion of the world’s most impoverished people, including 875 million children.
As of 2015, Malawi was one of 10 countries globally thatwere home to 70 percent of people affected by bilharzia.