By Frank Ikpefan, Abuja
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), has said that over 50 percent of children across the six area councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), are infected with schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms also known as intestinal worms.
The CSOs noted that open defection and poor hygiene practices were factors responsible for the intestinal worm infection.
It stated that two of the area councils; Gwagwalada and Kwali, were also endemic to soil transmitted helminths.
Technical Specialist on Non Tropical Diseases for the Christian Blind Missionary (CBM) Nigeria country office, Joseph Kumbur, said that a free deworming exercise has been scheduled to run this month to prevent and cure children and adults from the disease.
According to him, Schistosomiasis was commonly transmitted through contaminated human waste which spreads through soil or water sources in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene practices.
Kumbur who raised concerns over the poor awareness, funding and strict instructions from parents to their children and wards not to take the drugs, gave assurances that they were safe and reliable with mild adverse effects of not more than three days, especially when taken on an empty stomach.
“In Gwagwalada area council the prevalence rate of Schistosomiasis is over 50%; that is quite huge so everybody in that community from the age of 5 and above in gwagwalada must take the medicine,” he said.
A health expert, Rinpan Ishaya, explained that worms act as parasites to the body, feeding on tissues or organs and competing for nutrients, a development that leads to impaired immunity and bloating of the stomach in most cases.
According to him, worms constitute long term health implications that could lead to cognitive impairment, increased absenteeism from school, stunted growth, and could also contribute to chronic anemia, malnutrition, fatigue and illness.
While noting that the aim of the deworming program was to treat at least 75 percent of school age children for five consecutive years, he said ongoing sample collection has revealed the presence of blood in some of the children’s urine, a common symptom of Schistosomiasis.
“All the area councils are endemic, that means everybody living in those areas are at risk. It has put more than half a million school age children at risk and that has a lot of implications.
“These drugs have the capability to prevent those that are not infected yet and also treat those that are not infected of is both preventive and curative and can last for one year.
“For children not in school, school managements have been asked to open their doors to accommodate non enrolled school age children to participate in the deworming programme but where the children are high, we have trained community distributors and volunteers to go out and reach out to these children,” the expert said.