Neglected Tropical Diseases programme to begin Mass Drug Administration in schools

Dr. Kofi Marfo – GHS

The Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Programme under the Ghana Health Service (GHS), will begin a nationwide Mass Drug Administration (MDA) exercise from November 4 to November 8, 2019, to deworm school children across 205 highly endemic districts.

Dr Benjamin Marfo, the Programme Manager for Neglected Tropical Diseases, at a press briefing in Accra, said the five-day exercise would target all pupils from Kindergarten One to Junior High School three, who would be given praziquantel, albendazole or mebendazole tablets respectively for bilharzia and intestinal worm infestation based on their heights.

He encouraged all school children to avail themselves on the day, and urged parents to take the health of their children seriously by ensuring that they participated fully in the upcoming exercise to help secure them against the dangerous health implications of these NTDs.

“Parents are also advised to ensure that their children eat well before taking the medication, which is not to be taken on an empty stomach,” he said.

Dr Marfo described NTDs as a group of 20 infectious and parasitic diseases found in very impoverished parts of the world; were severely debilitating and disabling, promote a cycle of poverty, and often concentrated in remote areas and slums.

Bilharzia, he said was caused by a work called schistosome, and the disease mad affect the bladder or intestine, manifesting by the passing of bloody urine or stools, adding that infection was by contact with eggs of the worm after bathing and swimming in, or walking through contaminated water barefooted.

Intestinal worm infestations on the other hand was caused by various types of worms such as the round, pin and hook worms, which can be acquired through drinking water or eating food contaminated with their eggs, as well as walking bare footed.

He said the symptoms included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, big belly and general weakness and that the effective protective measure was ensuring good personal and environmental hygiene, and advised both the young and old to avoid bathing, swimming, walking drinking or eating contaminated water and foods.

“It is also advisable for all persons to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and clean water before eating,” he said.

Dr Marfo indicated that the negative impact of NTDs were far overwhelming than current research had shown, and that there was the need to conduct further and detailed empirical studies especially on the effects of bilharzia in male and females.

He said recurrent bilharzia infection had been cited for triggering infertility in both male and females, and was also suspected for causing cervical cancer, and severe bleeding, while worm infestation could lead to malnutrition, anaemia, and poor academic outcomes in children due to the lack of concentration.

He said the three strategies for the elimination of some of these diseases like bilharzia and intestinal worm infestation were the MDA in all endemic districts, undertake clinical management of all cases of morbidity and the provision of health education in all targeted endemic communities, adding that the National programme has already stared vigorous activities in order to ensure no district is left behind.

Mr Martin Ankomah, the Deputy Director of Administration, GHS, noted that preventing and controlling NTDs was central to ending extreme poverty in the next two decades, and that the annual MDA exercise was estimated to reach about six million children, would provide effective protection for the health of especially the younger generation.

Ms Joyce Aryee, who is currently the National NTD Ambassador, further encouraged all parents to ensure that their wards participate in this exercise as the medicines were safe and had many benefits like protecting children from infections, promoting their growth and general well-being of the child.

Source: GNA

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