Kampala, 31st August 2017:- The Ministry of Health with support from partners convened a two-day meeting to discuss control and elimination of Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) in Uganda. The meeting provides an opportunity for the experts to review the details of Ministry of Health’s NTD programme implementation, coverage of the different interventions, possible reasons for the resurgence of schistosomiasis and provide guidance on a comprehensive approach to controlling Schistosomiasis, using the available tools. Further to this, the experts will deliberate on the scale up of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions for infection prevention. WHO provided guidelines on the integration of WASH interventions into NTD control and elimination, which the NTD programme intends to familiarize with and adapt as necessary.
The Acting World Health Organization Representative in Uganda Dr Abdoulie Jack applauded the Ministry of Health for bringing partners together saying, “Schistosomiasis is one of the NTDs that have inflicted man for a very long time, and a string of interventions ought to be implemented." He, however, noted that the tools to control the disease and relieve people of the related morbidity, and the disease are available and should be put to good use.
The Director General of Health Services was represented by Dr Edridah Tukahebwa, the NTD Program Manager who remarked that Schistosomiasis remains a public health problem in Uganda. She said, “Seven million people are infected, and 16 million are at risk in Uganda, particularly those that live along lakes and rivers.” She, however, added that NTD control is integrated into the National strategic and development plans, hence creating momentum at national and local levels to eliminate NTDs. Dr Tukahebwa also acknowledged the support from partners and particularly thanked WHO for producing the necessary guidelines.
Schistosomiasis is an acute and chronic parasitic disease caused by blood flukes. Estimates show that at least 218 million people required preventive treatment in 2015. Preventive treatment, which should be repeated over a number of years, will reduce and prevent morbidity. Schistosomiasis transmission has been reported from 78 countries.
WHO’s work on schistosomiasis is part of an integrated approach to the control of neglected tropical diseases. Although medically diverse, neglected tropical diseases share features that allow them to persist in conditions of poverty, where they cluster and frequently overlap.
WHO coordinates the strategy of preventive chemotherapy in consultation with collaborating centres and partners from academic and research institutions, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, international development agencies, and other United Nations agencies. WHO develops technical guidelines and tools for adaptation and use by national control programmes.
Working with partners and the private sector, WHO has advocated for increased access to treatment and resources for implementation. WHO is also advocating for the integration of WASH interventions into NTD control and elimination as this will enhance the attainment of the 2020 advanced control targets for Schistosomiasis.