The Carter Center undertakes the largest initiative providing health education and treatment for schistosomiasis in Nigeria, the world's most endemic country for this preventable but devastating disease.
In terms of socioeconomic and public health impact, schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or snail fever, is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease in tropical countries. Approximately 20 million Nigerians — mostly children — need to be treated for schistosomiasis, making the country the most endemic in the world.
Schistosomiasis Disease Cycle
Victims Mostly Children
For communities already burdened by poverty and ravaged by scourges such as malaria and tuberculosis, schistosomiasis is especially devastating — weakening the body's resistance to other infections and preventing children from reaching their full potential.
Fortunately, schistosomiasis can be controlled and treated easily with a single annual dose of the medicine praziquantel, which costs about US 18 cents.
|Although the local swimming hole provides enjoyment to this Nigerian child, it also is the site of transmission of schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease transmitted by water snails.|
As of 2011, the program has assisted in more than 6 million cumulative praziquantel treatments (provisional), which have been distributed primarily to children since 1999. The vast majority of these treatments were distributed during 2008-2011 alone, through a dramatic scaleup of activities made possible through a donation to the Center from the World Health Organization and Merck KGaA (Germany). Through generous contributions of many additional partners, The Carter Center has continued to deliver treatments to more than 1 million people (mostly children) annually in program areas.
As a result of these efforts, millions of Nigerians are now benefiting from schistosomiasis treatment. For example, blood in schoolchildren's urine — a telltale sign of schistosomiasis infection — has been reduced by approximately 94 percent in Plateau and Nasarawa states and approximately 88 percent in Delta state, illustrating that the disease can be controlled with cost-effective efforts.
The Carter Center has pioneered the concept of integrating interventions against schistosomiasis with lymphatic filariasis and river blindness interventions þ when those diseases occur in the same communities — to help state ministry of health programs reach communities more efficiently.
The success of the joint programs has demonstrated that one community-based health education and drug distribution system can support the control and elimination of multiple diseases. Read more about disease program integration >