Neglected tropical diseases affect the poorest of our society with many of those affected living in Africa. In South Africa, the WHO estimate that 3.9 million people require mass treatment for two of the most common diseases, schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) and Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) also known as intestinal worms.
According to the most recent data from the WHO, South Africa is currently not treating school age children for schistosomiasis. 2.9 million people were reported not to have received treatment for schistosomiasis in spite of donated medicines being available from pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA. This is a disease that has serious consequences on women’s reproductive health. If left untreated, schistosomiasis progresses in women into Female Genital Schistosomiasis, tripling the risk of HIV infections and causing infertility and ectopic pregnancies.
It is difficult to even gauge the entire scope of the issue in South Africa, as they have not been reporting data on schistosomiasis treatment for school age children to WHO.
On the African Leaders Malaria Alliance scorecard, South Africa was given three recommendations:
1. Deliver treatment for schistosomiasis alongside STH for school age children
2. Increase budget allocation for NTDs at the national level
3. Provide timely data on NTD implementation
It is time we call on the Health Minister to execute these recommendations and #BeatNTDs.
We are calling on Global Citizens to email the Minister of Health to begin treating school age-children for schistosomiasis and report the data to WHO. In addition, to allocate government funding for the treatment of schistosomiasis.