Over 2 million Nigerian children receive treatment against parasitic worms- WHO

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Over the past three months, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) has provided support for Nigeria to reach over 2 million children who have never had Schistosomiasis treatment before.

The expanded project is aimed at reaching the 44 million Nigerian children who are at risk of being infected with Schistosomiasis – an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms.

The disease is also caused by the body’s reaction to the eggs from the worm, when in the intestine it can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and blood in the stool.

The main symptom of genital schistosomiasis is haematuria (blood in the urine), Liver enlargement is also common in advanced cases of Schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis infection can occur during routine agricultural, domestic, occupational and recreational activities, which expose people to infested water.

In addition, lack of hygiene and certain play habits of school-aged children such as swimming or fishing in infested water can make children vulnerable to infection.

Currently, Schistosomiasis is endemic in 583 of the 774 LGAs across Nigeria; perhaps the reason the WHO undertook a project to reach critically affected children in endemic states.

‘‘The economic and health effects of schistosomiasis are extensive and the disease disables more than it kills ’’WHO says

Currently, Schistosomiasis is endemic in 583 LGAs out of the 774 LGAs across Nigeria; perhaps the reason the WHO undertook a project to reach critically affected children in endemic states.

A treatment campaign conducted across 27 LGAs in Borno, 18 LGAs in Adamawa and 3 LGAs in Bauchi state, contributed in bringing the geographic coverage of treatment to 100% in the three states.

Schistosomiasis in children can cause anaemia, stunting and a reduced ability to learn, although the effects are usually reversible with treatment. Chronic schistosomiasis may affect people’s ability to work and in some cases can result in death.

But despite its dangerous effects, the infection can be treated with ‘Praziquantel’, a WHO recommended drug for all forms of Schistosomiasis.

The drug is effective, and safe; even though re-infection may occur after treatment. With Praziquantel, the risk of developing severe complication from the infection is diminished and mostly reversed when treatment is timely.

In 2018 the WHO conducted a mass drug administration of Praziquantel in 190 LGAs, so far in 2019, 449 of the 583 endemic LGAs have conducted at least one MDA.

“These MDAs are indeed what is what is needed. They are truly impactful and do touch on lives of many children,” said Dr Anyaike Chukwuma, the National NTD coordinator.  “So far, I am glad to report that at least 2 million children have so far been reached this year and I looking forward to reaching even more by the end of the year.”

Dr Rex Mpazanje, speaking on behalf of the WHO Representative to Nigeria, indicated that “as with other NTDs, WHO is continuing to work with the Government and other development partners to advocate for and facilitate increased availability and access to treatment to end the scourge of Schistosomiasis.”

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