Health experts have warned against the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) which are still affecting many people.
Matwale Gabriel a member of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Secretariat and in charge of eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis at the ministry of health’s Vector Control Division revealed that in Uganda several NTDs have been ignored because of the myths and misconceptions about them.
“NTDS are the diseases which affect the poor, marginalised leaving in rural areas and urban semi-rural areas; usually associated with sanitation and water challenges. They are called neglected because; there are no modern medicines to address them. When you get the parasite, it takes time to show the signs and symptoms,” he said.
Matwale says in Uganda, such diseases include elephantiasis, ‘Buluuli ulcers’ (which has reduced), bilharzia, rabies, sleeping sickness and others.
So far, he says, elephantiasis prevails in 66 districts, river blindness in 48, trachoma on 42 and the vectors that spread these diseases are in most districts.
He revealed that people have different myths and beliefs about them and this has delayed seeking care.
“To get hydrocele, some say you must have eloped with someone’s wife. Such myths also happen with people who are having bilharzia whereby the fishermen ease themselves within the water and some pregnant women don’t want to use pit latrines, making it easy to for vectors to transmit the diseases,” he said.
Government however, has pushed for elimination of five NTDs including elephantiasis, river blindness, trachoma, vectors and bilharzia. Matwale says patients in endemic areas usually get their medications in April and October for the trained VHTs and Health workers in hospitals.
Also, although medications are hard to get, interventions have been made to eliminate vectors that transmit the diseases by distribution of mosquito nets to prevent mosquito bites.
“Every year, we give treatment to people living in endemic areas and therefore the infected persons should ensure that they get treatment from the Village Health Team members. Avoid exposing yourselves to the vectors which transmit the disease.
Dr Francis Mugume, the program manager for Trachoma and Bilharzia at ministry of health also said that Uganda has taken up the mantle to fight NTDs.
“Uganda has moved a step and they are reducing because of the interventions instituted. For instance, trachoma has been endemic in 51 districts and right now we have challenges in 3 districts and we are moving towards elimination. For bilharzia and Soil Transmitted Helminth (STH), we have had prevalence of more than even 50% but with control measures, were seeing a reduction right now,” he said.
He urged people to maintain good hygiene in order to prevent them. He said,
“If we can improve our hygiene, both domestic and environmental hygiene, access to safe water and people become aware, sensitised about these NTDs, together we can make it.”