Zimbabwe steps up efforts to tackle elephantiasis and trachoma

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Government of Zimbabwe has stepped up mass treatment of neglected tropical diseases that include blinding trachoma and elephantiasis, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said recently. Elephantiasis is an infection caused by a parasite and leads to extreme swelling of the legs and arms. It is caused by the filarial worm and spread by the female mosquito.

Blinding trachoma on the other hand is caused by a bacterium. The bacterium causes the inner surface of the eyelids to become rough. The roughening could lead to a lot of pain, disintegration of the outer surface or cornea and possibly leading to blindness.

The disease can spread from person to person through direct physical contact with an infected person.

In a press conference held in Harare recently, the deputy minister Cde Aldrin Musiiwa while speaking on behalf of the minister said the government was planning to distribute preventive medicines to nearly seven million people from 39 earmarked districts with high prevalence of the diseases.

“This year’s mass drug administration (MDA) campaign is perculiar in that we have added two more diseases in the mass treatments which are elephantiasis and blinding trachoma,” he said.

He added that the most affected provinces were Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Midlands provinces.

He said the preventive medicines for blinding trachoma would only be administered in Binga to take care of the entire population of about 143 000 with plans to stretch  to other 10 endemic districts in 2017.

The government previously administered preventive medicines for intestinal worms and bilharzia. Dr Parirenyatwa added that as opposed to bilharzia preventive medicines, treatments for blinding trachoma and elephantiasis was aimed at both children and adults in the affected districts.

For intestinal worm disease and bilharzia, Dr Parirenyatwa said the government was hopping to reach out to about five million pre-school and secondary age children. He said with support from different stakeholders, over 16 million dosages were administered to children for bilharzias and intestinal worms over the past four years.

Dr Parirenyatwa appealed to parents irrespective of religion or age to present their children for the treatments adding that “By doing so, you are avoiding risking future blindness, selected cancers, elephantiasis, hydrocele, anaemia, poor educational or learning performance and infertility,” he said.

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