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Nigeria gets 34m tablets to treat school children of worms


Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole

Country world’s most endemic for schistosomiasis
Nigeria yesterday received a donation of 34 million tablets to treat its school children against schistosomiasis, one of the most prevalent tropical diseases in Africa.

Caused by parasitic worm, schistosomiasis is described as a disease of poverty that leads to chronic ill-health.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infection is acquired when people come into contact with fresh water infested with the larval forms of parasitic blood flukes, known as schistosomes. The microscopic adult worms live in the veins draining the urinary tract and intestines.
“Most of the eggs they lay are trapped in the tissues and the body’s reaction to them can cause massive damage,” a WHO factsheet says.

International science and technology company, Merck, which announced the donation yesterday, described it as the largest single delivery of praziquantel tablets in the history of the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program. The tablets are scheduled for mass distribution to school children.

In a statement made available to The Guardian, Merck said with this, it has donated more tablets to a single country than it did to the entire continent in 2012 (27 million).

At a meeting with the management of Merck in Geneva yesterday, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, was quoted to have expressed Nigeria’s thanks to Merck and the World Health Organization (WHO) for their joint efforts in the fight against the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis.

He said: “With more than 235 million people requiring treatment, schistosomiasis is one of the most prevalent tropical diseases in Africa.
The worm disease is widespread in all regions of Nigeria, above all among children. We are therefore grateful for every sustained initiative that supports us in fighting schistosomiasis.”

Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck, Stefan Oschmann, noted that the organization would collaborate even more closely with its partners to finally eliminate schistosomiasis.

Oschmann: “We want to eliminate the insidious worm disease and give children the opportunity to participate in the economic development of their home countries. Our donation of 34 million tablets to WHO for Nigeria – enough to treat 13.6 million school children – shows that we are on the right track. However, millions of children still suffer from schistosomiasis. And we know that we alone cannot solve the problem with our tablets.”

Oschmann stressed how Merck was supporting educational and awareness programs, researching schistosomiasis therapies for very young children and cooperating with partners in the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, among other things.

According to WHO, Nigeria is the world’s most endemic country for schistosomiasis. It is estimated that around 37% of the overall population or about 64.1 million people require treatment.

Nigeria has been participating in the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program since 2008. To date, through WHO , Merck has donated nearly 105 million tablets to Nigeria, making it the main beneficiary country of the donation program. In total, nearly 20 million Nigerian patients have been treated to date, primarily school children.

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