Yemen launches national campaign to eliminate schistosomiasis
11 March 2008 | Yemen
On 11 March 2008, Yemen launched its first campaign to eliminate schistosomiasis as a national public health problem. The Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population and the Director of the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean chaired the ceremony, which took place at a primary school for girls in Al-Mahweet Governorate. Other small ceremonies were held in the six governorates targeted by the campaign.
Artificial pools like the shown here are essential for irrigation, but are also transmission sites for schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis, an ancient parasitic infection, is one of the most significant public health problems in Yemen, infecting about 3 million people of a population of 23 million and eroding socioeconomic development. In recent years, senior political authorities have committed to controlling the disease by allocating financial and human resources.
From left to right: World Bank representative, WHO Representative in Yemen, Governor of Al-Mahweet, HE the Minister of Public Health and Population, RD/EMRO, HE the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation
The mainstay of the strategy recommended by WHO for treatment of schistosomiasis is repeated chemotherapy with single-dose drugs at regular intervals. Praziquantel, the drug of choice, can contain and prevent morbidity, and reduce transmission rates.
A new hope for Yemeni children. Dr Hussein Gezairy, Regional Director WHO/EMRO with a schoolchild on the day of the ceremony
On 10–14 March, a treatment campaign took place in 6 governorates, targeting more than 850 000 children (aged 6 to 18 years) through a large-scale intervention mainly relying on schools as drug distribution points for both enrolled and non-enrolled children. Schoolteachers were involved in treatment activities under the supervision of and coordination with health workers. Praziquantel was distributed with albendazole, to protect against soil-transmitted helminth infections. The impact of the campaign on educational outcomes is expected to be significant. By swallowing just one pill, a child’s health improves, boosting school attendance and improving performance.
Dr Ghulam Rabani Popal, WHO Representative in Yemen (left), publicly commended HE the Minister of Public Health and Population (right) for his personal engagement
Treatment activities are expected to continue later in the year in order to cover the entire target population for 2008, estimated at over 2.5 million. Interventions are coordinated by the Ministry of Public Health and Population, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The World Bank provides funds for drugs and distribution; WHO donates drugs and provides technical support; and the World Food Programme and UNICEF are also directly engaged.
HE Dr Abdul Karim Yehia Rasae, Minister of Public Health and Population expressed the commitment of the Government of Yemen to elimination of schistosomiasis
According to the Ministry of Public Health and Population, the response to the campaign has been enormous because the need for treatment was great. Yemen will now implement drug distribution campaigns at regular intervals until the disease is eliminated.
Better public health initiatives like focused snail control, water and sanitation will be implemented once the morbidity has been controlled and high transmission areas have been identified.
WHO has publicly commended the Government of Yemen for making the elimination of schistosomiasis a top priority. By tackling schistosomiasis, Yemen is protecting the gains already made in adjacent countries, and reaching towards elimination of schistosomiasis on the Arabian peninsula. WHO also commends the full commitment of the Government of Yemen, and in response has deployed resources to support the national authorities.