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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Zimbabwe partners China in programme to eliminate bilharzia

Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

ZIMBABWE is on course to eliminate bilharzia after the launch of a new Zimbabwe – China pilot project for the control and elimination of the tropical disease which is still a cause for concern in some parts of the country.

According to a recent study conducted by the Ministry of Health and Child care in conjunction with the National Institute of Health Research in Zimbabwe and the China National Institute of Parasitic Diseases, Mashonaland Central is among the provinces highly affected by schistosomiasis, commonly known as Bilharzia, with Shamva district having the highest prevalence rate.

“Shamva District was selected for the implementation of the comprehensive schistosomiasis elimination strategies including treatment of affected people, provision of sanitation, safe water, health education, and snail control because of the demonstrated huge burden in the district,” said Mashonaland Central Provincial Medical Director, Dr Clement Chuma.

For pilot projects done in 14 villages of Shamva, samples from 30 households per village were collected and those found to be positive of the Bilharzia-causing pathogen are already receiving treatment.

“They came and collected samples from us so today they delivered the results and we were told to come and get treatment. Its a relief at least we will get treatment instead of having a parasite eating you up whilst you are unaware,” said a Shamva resident.

“I would sometimes get some irritation when passing urine, but was not sure of the causes but now I am relieved because I got treatment,“ said another.

Lead researcher in the study, Professor Nicholas Midzi, who is also the Director of the National Institute of Health Research said eliminating the disease is high on the agenda.

“This is a pilot stage or study that we have conducted and launched to be able to assess the various tools that will be used for the control of vector snails or intermediate host snails that are responsible for the transmission of Bilharzia. We are also assessing the Rapid Diagnostic Tests that can be used at a community level by the health facilities to improve surveillance of Bilharzia at the community level where the disease exists,” he explained.

With experience spanning over seven decades, China has pledged to use its knowledge to help Zimbabwe fight the disease.

“This programme is supported by the Government of China to improve the local people’s health and to improve the knowledge of schistosomais in the people and children in order to reduce schistosmiasis. This is very significant programme between our countries to improve the relationship between Zimbabwe and China government,” noted Deputy Director China National Institute of Parasitic Diseases, Dr Li Shizhu.

After the successful completion of the project, Zimbabwe will be the first country in the Sub-Saharan region to eliminate the disease.

According to 2021 global estimates, more than 200 million people across the globe require treatment for Bilharzia.

n Zimbabwe, the disease is endemic in almost all provinces although on average, 22.7 percent of the population were infected and affected by the disease.

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