Schistosomiasis in the eyes of two sons and a father

“We have become birds. Birds work to eat a daily meal. The following day, they need to look for another food source to eat for the day. This is due to their small capacity of production.”

This is the way Suleiman Salum describes what he does to earn his living. Suleiman is a resident of Tasini Village located in Pemba, Zanzibar, an island located off from the shores of Tanzania. Suleiman is an agriculturalist but also deals in scrap metal.

Schistosomiasis (SCH) It is an infection caused by flatworms that are parasites. People who suffer from it are exposed to polluted water, especially in areas that are impacted by poverty and lack of access to basic services.

SCH is a painful and uncomfortable illness to deal with. It can keep children out of schools and also keeps adults out of working. It can lead to a decrease in cognitive development, fatigue, anaemia and weakness. It can also cause infection. This may result in a decrease in education attainment, productivity, and ability to work which can lead to poverty and diminished food security.

“I found myself feeling a discomfort when passing urine. I experienced pain as well as the pus was very thick. I was in pain and the color was different. I decided to visit the hospital. The tests were positive for schistosomiasis. I was offered the treatment and was given the dose right away.

“When I returned about 7pm, in the late evening, our son told me: “I feel pain whenever I use the bathroom and my urine contains blood.” My other sonalso reported the same. I took both of them to the hospital the next day. They were diagnosed with the illness.”

Suleiman’s son Said Said, has shared his experience with schistosomiasis The schistosomiasis treatment is akin to

“I began to feel uncomfortable and was experiencing discomfort. I decided to stop going to the pool because I was feeling unwell. In the hospital, I was handed a small jar and told to go to the toilet to take my urine to be tested for. Following the test, I was told that I was suffering from Schistosomiasis. Then, I was given medications for worms and schistosomiasis.”

Like many drugs, there are some mild negative side effects with Praziquantel which is the recommended treatment for SCH.

“It is true that medications for some people may cause problems even when they’re sick, particularly for children. However, we educate them of the negative effects of the disease, and provide parents tips on how they can administer medications for their kids” stated the Clinical Officer, Abdallah Mobarouk Saleh at the Tundauwa Health Centre in Pemba, Zanzibar.

This is the reason why there is a procedure for administering the drug in order to ensure that any adverse consequences are minimal, as verified from Suleiman:

“After testing was deemed to be valid The children were then measured and then the medication was administered in accordance to their height. I was asked if they had consumed food. I told them that they had not eaten anything at all. So I was told to feed them before taking the drug.

After work, in the evening I had the idea of giving them pills because they were about to go to bed. The pills were cut into smaller pieces so that they could be easily taken. I ensured that they were administered in accordance with the prescriptions of the doctor. I also did the same with the other anti-worm medicines.”

Clinical officer with Praziquantel. Image by: Unlimited Health/William Mgobelo

Unlimit Health is in close collaboration in partnership with Ministry of Health (MoH) in Zanzibar to eradicate parasite-related diseases such as SCH to ensure that people such as Suleiman and his children are able to remain free of any limiting illness.

Our assistance is to ensure that medicines are distributed in the areas where they are most needed and assessing coverage to ensure that patients who require treatment get the treatment they require. In addition, we are working with the MoH in impact assessments to improve their strategies to treat people, and ensuring to ensure that resources are directed to the regions and vulnerable populations.

“The reason for treatment is to always safeguard lives and prevent people from contracting the disease. It can help us stay clear of any further consequences of this illness [schistosomiasis]. It is crucial and will benefit our communities tremendously. As health professionals we must to keep educating the public about their health, especially to people who are sick who are urged to get from their homes to seek treatment” said Abdalla the Chief Clinical Officer.

“Before the treatment I was playing with my friends but was uncomfortable. I was extremely dissatisfied. Now I am content and I can play until at the very end.”

His father says: “When they are healthy they can carry on with their other tasks and also give me the freedom to go on my business. If they’re sick and in a state of decline, I’m trapped.”

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