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Schistosomiasis Data Release Prompts New Commitments to Protect Ugandans from a Neglected Tropical Disease

On June 30, 2017, survey results were released by the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) Schistosomiasis project that revealed the disease to be more geographically and demographically spread across the country than previously understood. The PMA2020 program in Kampala, Uganda found that Schistosomiasis (a highly endemic and neglected parasitic disease that is transmitted by contact with contaminated fresh water inhabited by snails carrying the parasite, commonly known as Bilharzia) affects more than 1 in 5 people (22% prevalence) in Uganda, with children ages 2 to 4 at greatest risk (31%). The findings spurred significant discussions among policymakers, who agreed that the disease is more widespread than previously known. Many key stakeholders committed to further disseminating the data and to focus on developing more holistic solutions to combatting Schistosomiasis at the community level. 

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The results were released at a dissemination event hosted by Makerere University School of Public Health. The data from PMA2020’s Round 1 Schistosomiasis survey was collected from October to December 2016. PMA2020 uses mobile technology and local networks of female data collectors to generate rapid-turnaround surveys on important health indicators.

A diverse group of over 70 stakeholders from health and water and sanitation sectors attended the event, including representatives from the Ministry of Health Vector Control Division (MOH-VCD) and Environmental Health Division, along with high-level participation from Ministry of Health.

The Director General of Health Services (MOH), Mr. Anthony Mbonye, opened the meeting by thanking the research team for spearheading this Schistosomiasis study and noted that there is a great desire to improve health with a comprehensive package of service delivery in partnership with the private sector.

Following the presentation of the findings, there was an extensive discussion led by the head of the MOH-VCD and National Neglected Tropical Disease Coordinator, Dr. Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa. Dr. Edridah reiterated how much more widespread the disease is than previously understood and that these new results need to be shared more extensively at the regional and district levels.

Parliamentarians in attendance reacted to the importance of water and sanitation infrastructure to protect people from Schistosomiasis and pledged to help take the findings further down to their communities.

One of the main survey results was that only half of the population had knowledge of the disease. Given this lack of awareness, the chair of the health committee in Parliament pledged that they were ready to work with the MOH-VCD to ensure people have prevention knowledge.

These commitments are a positive first step in controlling Schistosomiasis in Uganda.

Watch local media coverage of the event.

About the study:

Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 Schistosomiasis (PMA2020 Schisto) is a research survey created specifically for Uganda, as part of the PMA2020 project. The survey was conducted to develop the first nationally representative prevalence rate of Schistosomiasis. The first round of PMA Schisto was implemented by Makerere University School of Public Health in Kampala, in partnership with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the Uganda Ministry of Health’s Vector Control Division and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. The survey collected data in 98 districts in Uganda. Overall direction and support was provided by the Johns Hopkins University Water Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health through a generous gift from Maxmind, Inc.

Friday, August 4, 2017