Neglected tropical diseases

Yemen treats 9.6 million people for bilharzia and intestinal worms in two record-breaking 4-day public health campaigns

34 million tablets distributed to children and adults in 263 districts
Geneva | 04 June 2013
Professor Ahmed bin Qassim Al-Ansi, Minister of Public Health and Population supervises treatment in a primary school in Lahj governorate.

A total of 9 million 598 thousand and 173 Yemenis, comprising adults and children were treated for schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and soil-transmitted helminthiases (intestinal worms) in two separate 4-day campaigns in March and May 2013, compared with a total of 1.9 million people treated during the whole of 2012.

The announcement was made during a technical review meeting of the Yemen Schistosomiasis Control Project (SCP) currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland.

“This project is having a significant impact on the life of millions of Yemenis” said Dr Majid Al-Jonaid, Yemen’s Deputy Minister for Primary Health Care. “It is the outcome of an exemplary collaboration between the Ministry of Health and its partners”.

The large-scale treatment campaign involved around 30 000 health officials and community members in medicine distribution for the two campaigns in 263 districts of the country’s 20 governorates. A total of 5.4 million school-aged children and 4.1 million adults were treated with 34 million tablets of praziquantel (for schistosomiasis) and albendazole (for soil-transmitted helminthiases).

“High-level national political commitment and the shared pledge of dedicated partners make of Yemen a showcase and a yardstick other national programmes should aim for” said Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “More than ever, WHO is committed to providing support to ensure country ownership of interventions in defeating neglected tropical diseases.”

President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi of Yemen (right) speaking during the official launch of the Schistosomiasis Control Project in Hajjah on 25 December 2010

An update of the epidemiological status of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases in Yemen has recently been completed by the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) of Imperial College, London, UK and the University of Sana’a.

“Measuring impact is essential” said Professor Alan Fenwick, Director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.”Data show that the efforts led by the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Yemen over the past 10 years have produced remarkable changes of indicators of infection and morbidity”.

Spurred by results of the project, the World Bank has approved to extend its support to the Yemen Schistosomiasis Project.

“We’ve decided to add new components to this project, namely a trachoma one and another focused on regular school deworming for children in non-schistosomiasis areas” said Dr Alaa Hamed, World Bank’s Senior Health Specialist.

The six-year Yemen Schistosomiasis Control Project was launched in 2010 and is supported by a US$ 25 million grant from the World Bank.

A joint MoPHP/World Bank/WHO/SCI technical review meeting of the Yemen Schistosomiasis Control Project (SCP) is taking place this week at WHO/HQ in Geneva. The workshop is attended by delegates from Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population, led by the Deputy Minister for Primary Health Care, Dr Majid Al-Jonaid, as well as by the partners supporting the project, namely the World Bank and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Imperial College London, UK.

WHO is represented by its Yemen Country Office, the Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean and officials of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.