Yemen health officials said on Thursday that it has distributed more than 18 million doses of praziquantel to treat schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, during the past three years.
Following the treatment of more than 9.5 million adults and children in March, the World Health Organization, Yemen Ministry of Public Health and Population, World Bank and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College London announced in November that the level of infection has decreased by more than half.
"This achievement is exemplary and reflects the commitment of the Government of Yemen and the dedication of all our stakeholders, particularly the World Bank and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative" Lorenzo Savioli, the director of the WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, said. "WHO will support the people of Yemen in every possible way to defeat bilharzia and other neglected tropical diseases."
More than 3 million people in Yemen are infected with urogenital schistosomiasis caused by Schistosoma haematobium and intestinal schistosomiasis caused by Schistosoma mansoni.
"We plan to accelerate our campaign against bilharzia to change the lives of millions of Yemenis suffering from this disease," Yemen Deputy Minister for Primary Health CareMajid Al-Jonaid said. "Today we have the means and the will to end this long cycle of suffering caused by this preventable infection."
Patients receive up to three doses of medication per day. World Health Organization recommendations suggest one tablet of albendazole or mebendazole to be administered with praziquantel to treat intestinal parasitic infections.
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease that has occurred in 78 countries. More than 42 million people were treated for the disease in 2012.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and blood in the stool and urine. Fibrosis of the bladder and ureters, as well askidney and liver damage, have been reported in advanced cases.