Neglected tropical diseases

Schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases: more than 9 million people treated in Yemen

5 October 2012 | Geneva
Large-scale treatment campaigns conducted by the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Yemen have reached well over 9 million people, including children, suffering from schistosomiasis (bilharziasis) and soil-transmitted helminthiases (intestinal worms).

The six-year project – known as the Yemen Schistosomiasis Control Project – started in 2010 and focuses on control of the disease throughout the country. The project is supported by a US$ 25 million grant from the World Bank. In accordance with WHO recommendations on control of the disease, the strategic approach involves large-scale distribution of praziquantel to individuals living in endemic areas.

Artificial water pool of the type that contributes to sustaining transmission of schistosomiasis in the mountainous areas of Western Yemen. ©WHO/R. Ben Ismail

Yemen has the highest burden of schistosomiasis in the Middle East”, said Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “This project has made tremendous progress in tackling this debilitating disease, particularly among women and children”.

An early mid-term review of the project was concluded last week at WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It was attended by delegations from Yemen, including the Deputy Minister of Health and the Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, officials from the World Bank and representatives of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative of Imperial College London.

Several aspects of the project’s implementation were reviewed for period 2010–2012, including service delivery, impact evaluation, financial management and drug procurement. Delegates agreed to include a school health and a trachoma elimination component to the project from 2013.

WHO provides technical advice to Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population, which is also supported by the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.

Each individual targeted for schistosomiasis treatment also receives a tablet of albendazole or mebendazole to treat soil-transmitted helminthiases. Praziquantel is procured through WHO and albendazole or mebendazole are donated by GSK and Johnson & Johnson, respectively, through WHO.