Health minister Sarah Opendi has launched a mass treatment exercise for neglected diseases with a call for everyone in the targeted districts to ensure that they take the drugs.
Opendi explained that treating everyone in the targeted districts is expected to contribute to the elimination of the diseases, which are caused by vectors.
She made the call while launching the mass treatment exercise at Atanga Secondary School in Pader district recently.
The drugs to be distributed will target the treatment of river blindness, elephantiasis, bilharzia and trachoma, which diseases usually affect poor people and lead to a lot of suffering, noted Dr. Edridah Tukahebwa, the national programme co-ordinator for the NTD programme at the health ministry.
The drugs are free and will be distributed throughout the month of October, noted Stella Agunyo, the deputy chief of party for RTI/ENVISION, a project that is implementing the mass treatment.
According to Benjamin Binagwa, the chief of party for RTI/ENVISION, which is funded by USAID, $296,926 (about sh1,098b) has been earmarked for the exercise.
Agunyo disclosed that the mass treatment will be carried out in the Western region, Karamoja, West Nile, Bunyoro and the north. She added that the drugs are safe to be taken by everyone in the targeted districts who is five years and above, save for pregnant and lactating women or those who are bedridden.
Agunyo explained that treatment for river blindness will be carried out in Nebbi, Zombo, Kanungu, Kisoro and Rubanda. Other districts are Oyam, Buliisa Nwoya, Pader, Moyo, Adjumani and Amuru where residents will get drugs for river blindness and bilharzia.
According to Agunyo, mass treatment for other conditions will also be carried out as follows
- Moroto, Nakapiripirit, and Nabilatuk districts treatment will be given for trachoma.
- Pakwach is endemic for only Bilharzia and it will treat both in Schools and communities.
- In Arua, Omoro, Kitgum and Gulu treatment will be given for elephantiasis, river blindness and bilharzia.
- In Lamwo treatment will be given for elephantiasis and river Blindness
Noting that one of the challenges that is usually encountered during mass treatment is that some people shun taking drugs because of myths and misconceptions that make them think that the drugs are not safe and can lead to severe adverse effects.
On this note, Agunyo said the drugs are safe and advised those who might suffer side-effects to immediately report to the community drug distributors who will inform those above them and ultimately the ministry of health.
Opendi noted that in addition to mass drug administration, other interventions in fighting river blindness include vector control of the black fly through spraying and interfering with its breeding. She noted that controlling the black fly has also helped the community to be more productive in agricultural work and, thus, improve their nutritional status. There has also been health education to promote disease prevention practices.