Three million children to get bilharzia treatment

Health and Child Care ministry will next week roll out mass drug administration for bilharzia and intestinal worms to over 2 831 000 children from the targeted 57 districts where the diseases are rampant, a senior official has said.

Dr Portia Manangazira


The programme, which has entered its third year, will be launched in Mutare on Monday and is expected to end on January 23.

The ministry’s director of Epidemiology and Diseases Control, Portia Manangazira, told The Zimbabwe Mail that 31 districts would  get treatment for intestinal worms while 44 would get treatment for both intestinal worms and bilharzia.

“We are targeting children aged between one and 15 years and we are launching the exercise in Manicaland because both problems are widespread. The drug we will use for bilharzia is praziquantel and for intestinal worms we will use albentazole which we have been using in previous campaigns,” she said.

Manangazira, however, noted with concern that each and every drug comes with its own side effects.

For praziquantel and albendazole the after effects are lethargy, nausea, abdominal cramps, rash, diarrhoea, swelling of the body as well as headaches.

She said this could, however, be minimised by eating healthy food before taking the medication as well as minimising children’s activities.

“We encourage parents to bring food for their children or organise joint catering services at health centres or schools where the programme will take place to ensure that every child eats before they are given medication,” Manangazira said.

Bilharzia is a human disease caused by parasitic worms called Schistosomes which live in water. After years of infection, the parasite can also damage the liver, intestine, lungs and bladder, or end up causing seizures, paralysis or spinal code inflammation.

Recently, Health minister David Parirenyatwa said bilharzia was also prevalent in Mashonaland Central Province where 60 out of every 100 school-going children are bilharzia infected.

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