13 July 2018

Tanzania: Fighting Diseases Hindering Child Growth

KAGERA leaders and the general public have been urged to take a holistic approach in eliminating preventable diseases that hinder proper growth of children. People should also get correct information on strategies taken by the government in controlling the diseases.

The Kagera Regional Commissioner (RC), Major Gen (rtd) Salum Kijuu recently noted that Neglected Tropical diseases (NTDs), a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries, affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year.

People living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected. Effective control can be achieved when selected public health approaches are combined and delivered locally.

More people especially children aged five years and below, die every day in thousands as a result of contracting preventable diseases. Unsanitary conditions also invite dysentery and typhoid which are surefooted killers.

It is important on improving sanitation, toilets and hand washing facilities at household and public places particularly in schools and health facilities. Mr Kijuu said while addressing the Primary Health Committee (PHC) adding that the programme aims to improve the health and well-being of pre-school and school children.

By reducing the Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) infections through mass deworming and other preventive measures. According to Mr Kijuu, the Soil Transmitted Helminths prevalence rate was high adding that consumption of the tablet would not lead to any health hazard.

About 600,373 pupils in primary schools were expected to be administered with deworming tablets. The government will distribute Albendazole antiworm tablets for children aged between five years and 15 years free of cost.

NTDs Regional Co-ordinator, Gerase Ishengoma, revealed that during 2017/18 about 547,008 children were administered with Albendazone tablets while 545,520 children were administered Praziquantel tablets implying 90 per cent achievement.

In Biharamulo District about 60,229 children got Albendazone tabltes and 59,419 children were administered Praziquantel tablets. Other Districts with number of children in brackets include Bukoba District Council (Albendazone... 76,631; Praziquatel... .75,825).

Karagwe District (Albendazone... 70,323; Praziquatel... . 70,323). Kyerwa District (Albendazone... 85,311; Praziquatel... .85,311 ) . Missenyi District (Albendazone... 42,243; Praziquatel... . 42,399). Muleba District (Albendazone... 116,542; Praziquatel... .116,542). Ngara District (Albendazone... 68,584; Praziquatel... . 68,584).

Bukoba Municipal (Albendazone... 27,145; Praziquatel... .27,117). Worms made children to fall sick often, as a result they would not be able to attend classes and concentrate in the class rooms. If they missed classes it comes in the way of pursuing their education.

The tablet removed the growth of hook worm, whip worm and round worm in the body. The growth of those worms in the body of children resulted in anaemia. The worms cause malnutrition among children and curtailed growth of children. The worms especially suck vitamin A in pancreas.

The symptoms of prevalence of worms in the body were severe stomach ache, lack of appetite, diarrhoea, loss of energy, and tiredness. There are chances that if there are very few worms, children may not have these symptoms.

Worms infect more than one third of the world's population, with the most intense infections in children and the poor. In the poorest countries, children are likely to be infected from the time they stop breast-feeding, and to be continually infected and re-infected for the rest of their lives School-age children typically have the highest intensity of worm infection of any age group.

In addition, the most cost-effective way to deliver deworming pills regularly to children is through schools because schools offer a readily available, extensive and sustained infrastructure with a skilled workforce that is in close contact with the community.

All the common worm infections in school-age children can be treated effectively with two single-dose pills: one for all the common intestinal worms (hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms) and the other for schistosomiasis (bilharzia).

The treatment is safe, even when given to uninfected children. The most commonly used drugs for the treatment of common intestinal worms are Albendazole (400 mg) or Mebendazole (500 mg). In May 2013, the 66th World Health Assembly resolved to intensify and integrate measures against neglected tropical diseases and to plan investments to improve the health and social well-being of affected populations.

Twenty neglected tropical diseases are prioritized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses, scabies and other ectoparasites and snakebite envenoming were added to the list in 2017.

These diseases are common in 149 countries, affecting more than 1.4 billion people (including more than 500 million children) and costing developing economies billions of dollars every year. They resulted in 142,000 deaths in 2013-down from 204,000 deaths in 1990.

Of these 20, two were targeted for eradication (dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) by 2015 and yaws by 2020), and four for elimination (blinding trachoma, human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy and lymphatic filariasis by 2020).

Neglected tropical diseases are a diverse group of tropical infections which are especially common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths.

These diseases are contrasted with the big three diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), which generally receive greater treatment and research funding. In sub-Saharan Africa, the effect of these diseases as a group is comparable to malaria and tuberculosis.

NTD co-infection can also make HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis more deadly.

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