SCHISTOSOMIASIS – TANZANIA: (KILIMANJARO)
Kilimanjaro region is badly hit by worms and bilharzia diseases that affect many of its residents, with 57 014 people who visited health facilities last year  found to have contracted either of them.
Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Leonidas Gama, said that it was pertinent now for leaders from all district councils, health, and education professionals to address the problem.
In his speech read on his behalf by Deputy Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS), Eng Alfred Shayo, he said the diseases are dangerous to the health of the residents and are multiplied because stakeholders do not take precaution.
He was officiating at a one day workshop on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) that brought together the 6 district councils executive directors and chairpersons, the Moshi Municipal Council Mayor and district education and health practitioners in a bid to curb the situation.
Mr Gama said Hai District was chronic as it was registered to have 12 012 people who visited health facilities and were found to suffer from worm-related diseases. He said it was a pity that some children were not properly taken care of and this could derail their development.
The RC said Rombo District was trailing Hai, as 10 753 patients were identified in the same stint. As for bilharzia, which is also known as schistosomiasis, a total of 1445 people were found to have contracted it.
Bilharzia is a disease caused by parasitic worms of the schistosoma type. It may affect the urinary tract or the intestines. Signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, or blood in the urine. In people who have been infected for a long time, liver damage, kidney failure, infertility or bladder cancer may occur. In children it could cause poor growth and learning difficulty.
Statistics show that Same had 529 patients of this type, while Moshi municipality came 2nd, with 359 patients who were treated at different health facilities last year .
NTDs are a diverse group of diseases with distinct characteristics that thrive mainly among the poorest populations with limited availability of clean and safe water.
Mr Gama, in his speech, mentioned such other diseases to be elephantiasis and elephantiasis of the scrotum, leishmaniasis that is transmitted by sand fly; trachoma, stomach worms, sleeping sickness, rabies, plague, and tapeworm.
He urged stakeholders to start taking the diseases seriously, saying some of them if not well treated at initial stages could lead to bladder cancer, blindness, gastrointestinal [gerd; gastroesophageal reflux disease], as well as epilepsy.
The diseases are transmitted by insects such as flies, mosquitoes, snails, and could cause permanent disabilities. The situation could render the victims partially or fully incapable of engaging in development activities, hence affecting individual as well as national economy.
He alerted stakeholders to take time with children to ensure they are free from such diseases. That would avert them from negatively affecting school attendance and performance. He said once left to an advanced stage, it is expensive to treat the patients and are subject to stigma.
The RC urged leaders to sensitise the public to make sure their surroundings are clean, take preventive medication because the region has many people who are on the low-income fold.
Communicated by: ProMED-mail
The Kilimanjaro region has a population of 1 640 087 (according to the 2012 national census), which means that one out of every 29 inhabitants sought health care for schistosomiasis. This seems high but surveys in Western Tanzania report point prevalences in school children of around 15 percent, indicating that schistosomiasis is highly endemic and that only a few of those infected seek health care. It would be interesting to know if the patients were adults or children and the symptoms for which they sought care.
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