Neglected tropical diseases

Sudan intensifies its fight against schistosomiasis through large-scale treatment of school-age children

WHO to provide 6 million donated praziquantel tablets for the 2013 campaign

02 September 2013 | Geneva

Sudan has launched its 2013 schistosomiasis campaign through large-scale treatment of school-age children in several of its 18 States. A total of six million praziquantel tablets donated by the German pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA through the World Health Organization (WHO) are being delivered.

© C.Banluta/WHO Sudan
Students of El-Mussallamia school in Gezira during a schistosomiasis treatment campaign, August 2013

Schistosomiasis is widely distributed in in Sudan with more than 5 million people, mostly children, requiring treatment. Praziquantel is the recommended medicine for all forms of human schistosomiasis, and can be easily administered in peripheral health facilities, schools and communities.

WHO’s strategy for schistosomiasis control focuses on reducing the disease through periodic, targeted treatment with praziquantel. This involves regular treatment of people in at-risk groups, particularly children.

The frequency of treatment is determined by the prevalence of infection. In high transmission areas, treatment may have to be repeated every year for a number of years.

A number of surveys have been carried out in Sudan in the recent past which allows a clear understanding of the location of the endemic areas as well as their classification in terms of endemicity and priority for treatment” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, WHO Representative in Sudan. “Up to now, the schistosomiasis control programme in the country has invested significant time, manpower and resources in snail control. A redirection of the strategy with a focus on elimination is necessary.”

Dr Banerjee spoke of monitoring as being essential to determine the impact of control interventions, adding that WHO’s goal is to control and eliminate schistosomiasis in many parts of the world by 2020. In this context, he welcomed Merck’s donation which he said will greatly help to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The ceremony marking the official distribution of praziquantel donated by Merck took place on 27 August 2013 at the El Mussallamia school in the States of Gezira, about 150 kilometres southeast of Khartoum, in the presence of the Governor of Gezira State, Professor Elzubair Bashir, officials of the Ministry of Health and WHO, as well as representatives from Merck and of the German Embassy.