More than four million children aged between one and 15 years will be treated for bilharzia and intestinal worms this week following revelations the diseases are creating a public health scare in 57 of the country's 63 districts.
Speaking at a Press conference in Harare on Friday, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Paul Chimedza said the major objective of the countrywide mass treatment which starts today and runs until November 2, is to eliminate bilharzia and intestinal worms.
According to the 2010 nationwide prevalence survey, Shamva was the worst affected district where 52 percent of its children were affected by bilharzia, while Chikomba tops the chart on intestinal worms with a prevalence rate of 63 percent.
These revelations culminated in the development of a Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) policy, master plan and mass treatments.
"Mass drug administration forms a single most important rapid intervention as preventive chemotherapy for these two neglected tropical diseases most prevalent in Zimbabwe.
"By so doing, we reduce the continued transmission of the disease in the population as well as reduce the suffering for the affected communities," said Dr Chimedza.
The national launch would be at Tsungubvi Primary School in Mazowe district today.
This is the second time the mass treatment is running after successfully conducting the first round in September last year.
Dr Chimedza said 4,7 million children, up from 1,1 million previously, are set to benefit after development partners doubled their contributions towards the drugs.
He said last year, Government only had 2,5 million tablets for each of the diseases, but this time, they received over 11,5 million tablets for bilharzia and 5,5 million for intestinal worms, enough to reach over 4,7 million children in all districts.
Unicef procured 8,2 million and 5,1 million tablets for bilharzia and intestinal worms respectively while the World Health Organisation availed 3,5 million tablets for bilharzia.
World Vision International also donated 5 500 units while other donors assisted with the children's meals, among other contributions.
Dr Chimedza said treatments would be done at health facilities, designated schools, and other points of community convergence during the week-long campaign.
"The support and co-operation by all concerned Government ministries, partners and affected communities will ensure the realisation of the goal to eliminate these diseases in order to improve the health of our children and development of our communities. We, therefore, call upon every Zimbabwean to stand and support the 2013 campaign," said Dr Chimedza.
Speaking at the same occasion, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Unicef, WHO and World Vision officials expressed their commitment to supporting the mass treatments to end bilharzia and intestinal worms in Zimbabwe.
Epidemiology and disease control director in the Health and Child Care ministry, Dr Portia Manangazira urged parents to give children food rich in Vitamin C, carbohydrates and proteins such as beans and orange juice before bringing them for treatment, to minimise the risk of side effects.