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Lesotho launches health initiative

Limpho Sello

Health inpectors showcase the screening of NTDs to the Deputy Minister of Health Liteboho Kompi on Friday
Health inpectors showcase the screening of NTDs to the Deputy Minister of Health Liteboho Kompi on Friday

The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Training and World Health Organisation (WHO), on Friday launched the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) mapping survey in Quthing.

The NTDs Lesotho is focusing on are schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia, snail fever, and Katayama fever) and soiltransmitted helminths (STH). STH infections are among the most common contagions which affect the most deprived communities, and are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces that in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor.
The main species that infect people are the roundworm, whipworm and hookworms.

Speaking during the launch held at Moyeni Primary School, the Principal Investigator for the Mapping Survey of NTDs in Lesotho, Khotso Mahomo, said the objective of the initiative is to estimate the prevalence of the two diseases among schoolchildren throughout Lesotho and provide medication to those infected should their parents agree.

Mr Mahomo said five schools would be selected in each of the country’s 10 districts and 50 children screened for the diseases in each of those institutions.

“The selection criteria of the schools is based on whether they are at high risk of the diseases in relation to the environment and poverty level. The schools should be in areas where water and sanitation is being compromised,” Mr Mahomo said.

“This is being done because we believe it will give the investigators a clear picture of the prevalence of these diseases in Lesotho.”

Acting WHO Country Representative to Lesotho, Dr Wilfred Nkhoma, said NTDs cause death and suffering to millions of people globally, hence the need to take mitigatory measures against them.

Dr Nkhoma added the diseases also impair childhood physical and intellectual development, and  applauded the Government of Lesotho for embarking on such an important step in the fight against NTDs

“It is pleasing to note that the mapping exercise will cover all the 10 districts of the kingdom and it must be known that through this exercise, Lesotho will be joining 25 out of 47 countries in the region that would have attained this pivotal milestone for NTDs control,” Dr Nkhoma said.

“It is ethically pleasing and satisfying to note that those children who will be diagnosed with any of the target NTDs are to be provided with effective treatment on the spot.”

On his part, the Deputy Minister of Education and Training, Thabang Kholumo, said studies had shown that there are diseases which affect children’s development and learning ability, among them NTDs.

“Signs and symptoms of such diseases are said to be found in primary schools around the country, including Quthing district where we are today,” Mr Kholumo said at Friday’s launch.

“So the survey is intended to diagnose signs of NTDs at an early stage and this will push teachers and parents to help children take the necessary steps in fighting these diseases.

“If this is done accordingly, we will be keeping healthy and safe children in our schools, who will be learning without being affected by such diseases.”

Mr Kholumo then appealed to parents, the public, health representatives and teachers to ensure  the mapping exercise becomes a success as it is “very important”.

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