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By Annonciata BYUKUSENGE

Rwanda is committed to eradicating schistosomiasis/ Bilharzia by 2030, as it appears that 4.3 million people, including 1.6 million children, need of preventive treatments for schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis mainly affects the areas adjacent water bodies and wetlands, where the risk is significantly higher compared to the other provinces and these people live in these areas.

In the workshop called Bilharzia Storytelling Lab organized by MERCK, which is taking place in Rwanda, it brings together health experts, science journalists, writers/ researchers, film makers, who are being trained on Bilharzia disease and how they can contribute to sensitizing the people to prevent because so far there is no vaccine.

Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, is a Division Manager in Rwanda Biomedical center (RBC) in department of Neglected diseases including Bilharzia.

He says that people who are at high risk of contracting this disease are those who spend a lot of time in dirty water.

“Schistosomiasis mostly affects poor and rural communities, particularly agricultural and fishing populations. Women doing domestic chores in infested water, such as washing clothes, are also at risk and can develop female genital schistosomiasis, Agriculture Activities (Marshlands, Rice cultivation. Inadequate hygiene and contact with infected water make children especially vulnerable to infection.”

Symptoms of schistosomiasis are caused by the body’s reaction to the worms’ eggs.

Intestinal schistosomiasis can result in abdominal pain, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. Liver enlargement is common in advanced cases, and is frequently associated with an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity and hypertension of the abdominal blood vessels. In such cases there may also be enlargement of the spleen.

Information on bilharzia reaches the community through community dialogue and education provided by health experts and health workers who live with these communities on a daily basis.

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