Gbarpolu County – Health workers in Gbarpolu County have collaborated with four other counties to carry out mass drug distribution against snail fever, scientifically known as Schistosomiasis.
WHO coordinator in Gbarpolu County, Kervin Boima said there was an increase of the disease in Bokomu district September last year.
Boima said research conducted in 2013 confirmed the dominance of neglected diseases in two of Gbarpolu health districts: Kongba and Bopolu.
County Health Officer, Dr. Anthony Tucker, says many diagnoses of schistosomiasis in the county were carried out in 2016.
“So, we went on an outreach in that area and we were able to diagnosed 327 schistose and immediately administered a single dose of Praziquantel tablet to reduce the severity of the symptom”, Dr. Tucker said.
According to WHO, schistosomiasis or snail fever is an acute and chronic parasitic disease caused by blood flukes (trematode worms) of genus Schistosoma – the parasite that carries the disease.
Estimates show that at least 218 million people required preventive treatment in 2015.
Schistose symptoms are painful or bloody urination, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea.
While anemia or low blood, malnutrition and learning disabilities can also be develop in children with repeated cases of the infection.
The prevalence rate of the disease is high in Gbarpolu, Nimba, Lofa, Bomi, and Margibi Counties, says Mark Nimely, Focal person of the neglected tropical disease (NTD) section of Gbarpolu County Health Team.
Nimely says the five counties were the primary targets of the Ministry of Health mass drug distribution.
The health Technician said 30% of Gbarpolu’s population was targeted for the Praziquantel tablet.
With a population around 96,600 people, this means almost 29,000 people between the ages of 5 to 14 were given the drug free-of-charge throughout the county from March 24 to 29 this year.
A report by Local Voices Liberia in 2016 showed that medical diagnosis done on 327 people in three towns of Bokomu health district in Gbarpolu County established that the cases of snail fever was increasing in the county.
When another two persons were diagnosed at the Chief Jallah Lone Medical Health Center in Bopolu City, a medical mobile team was quickly deployed to the hospital to help deal with the situation.
The county health team says it has worked with 400 drug distributors within the county and they moved from village to village to administer the medicine.
Edward Benokai, one of the drug distributors in Henry Town said caretakers and families are happy about the distribution campaign.
“All the places we finished passing, the people are happy with the medicine we are giving to their children,” Benokai explained.
“Some parents of them (children) asked why we’re only focusing on the children, so as a result they referred to us as ‘community Save the Children’.”
People in these communities have thanked health authorities for the initiative, saying it reduces the health risk pose to children in rural communities.
“I think government is now thinking on time,” asserts Chief Willia Mawolo of Bopolu District.
Chief Mawolo says the medicine will help families save some money for other burning issues in their community instead of buying a single dose of the Praziquantel tablet which cost between LD$600.00 and US$700.00.
“At least our children will be save for long time from this kind of sickness that can make our children them pepee (urinate) with blood,” said Massa Solo of Kungba Town said.
“Since my two children have taken this medicine I will make sure they will not play in dirty water”.
Despite the drug distribution, preventing children from swimming in infested rivers is a challenge for many parents in these communities.
Many kids who swim or fish in infested streams are at risk of contracting snail fever, according to scientists. Some of these parasites, when trapped in the body can cause damage to internal organs, which causes death, scientists warn.
The parasite, schistosoma, is transmitted by contact with contaminated fresh water occupied by snails that carry the parasite, health workers say.
The US Center for Disease Control labeled the disease as the most deadly Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), which kills more than 200,000 people each year in Africa.
However, some parents still believed that it will be hard to prevent their children from bathing or playing in these streams.
“Our health people are doing well but our children will still go in the running waterside,” says Musu Gogba, a resident of Gbarma Town.
According to her there lack of safe and clean water in the rural areas, makes the situation hard to control.
But Youngor Gayflor of Mayamah Town believes parents must serve as community ambassadors.
“I think when someone is washing your back; you should wash your face too,” Gayflor said.
“We will not let government’s effort go in vein, so we will keep checking on our children activities so that they can remain safe in our hands”.
Report by Henry B. Gboluma
Editor’s Note: This story was produced by Local Voices Liberia - a network of Liberian journalists across the 15 counties. This network works to lift stories that are underreported in Liberian media landscape. Visit website www.localvoicesliberia.com