TANZANIA—The opening of the first-ever “China-Aid Schistosomiasis Surveillance Center in Zanzibar” is expected to assist the people of Zanzibar, especially those living in Pemba, in fighting schistosomiasis, according to Daily News, the local newspaper.

The Chinese Consul General in Zanzibar, Mr. Zhang Zhisheng, and the Minister of Health, Nassor Ahmed Mazrui, officially launched this project on November 1.

Schistosomiasis, often called snail fever, bilharzia, or bilharzia, is considered one of the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

It is a parasitic disease caused by several worm species in the genus Schistosoma.

Individuals contract the infection through regular contact with contaminated water while doing household, work, or recreational tasks.

Studies indicate that in 2021, a minimum of 251.4 million individuals were in need of preventive treatment for schistosomiasis; of these, over 75.3 million were documented as having received treatment.

The main strategy for controlling schistosomiasis is to treat large populations of people on a regular basis with praziquantel; however, a more all-encompassing strategy that includes drinkable water, proper sanitation, and snail control would also help curb the disease’s spread.

Minister Mazrui, in his speech, highlighted the persistent challenge of the disease in Zanzibar’s public health, noting that all 11 districts of Zanzibar are endemic for soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), and all but one in Unguja are endemic for urogenital schistosomiasis (SCH), with prevalence ranging from 0.4% to 4.8%.

He thanked the government and the Chinese Health Commission of Jiangsu Province for their unwavering support and highlighted the beneficial outcomes obtained in certain areas with the help of Chinese professionals.

Mr. Zhang expressed expectations that the “China Aid Schistosomiasis Prevention Project” would collaborate with Zanzibar’s technical staff and professionals to devise a prevention and control system tailored for the region, extending its benefits to other African nations.

Highlighting the project’s continuation, Zhang mentioned the official launch of the second phase of the China Aid Schistosomiasis Prevention and Control Technology Project in September 2023.

China has dispatched another team of experts to Zanzibar to assist with schistosomiasis prevention and control following the conclusion of the initial three-year pilot project.

The deployment of schistosomiasis surveillance stations at grassroots community health service centres serves to facilitate prompt detection and treatment. Additionally, these stations support national monitoring and response efforts related to schistosomiasis outbreaks.

The functions of the surveillance station in Pemba, which include epidemiological monitoring, diagnostic services, educational outreach, data reporting, and information sharing, were described by Dr. Yuzheng Huang, Team Leader of the China-Zanzibar Project of Schistosomiasis Control.

By offering residents complete services, the Schistosomiasis Surveillance Center plays a critical role in the prevention and control of Schistosomiasis.

Dr. Huang emphasized that the establishment of surveillance stations contributes to an improved understanding of the epidemiological dynamics and changes associated with schistosomiasis in Zanzibar.

To effectively combat the disease, it is crucial to scrutinize changes in factors influencing its incidence, analyze epidemic trends, and promptly identify outbreaks and potential transmission hazards.

The goal of scientific evaluation of preventive and control measures is to serve as a foundation for strategy development and improvement as well as the verification of eradication efforts.

Schistosomiasis manifests in intestinal and urogenital forms, causing symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and blood in the urine. It is prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas.

Prolonged infections can lead to serious health issues, underscoring the significance of treatment and prevention strategies.

In the broader scope of public health initiatives, efforts are also directed towards enhancing access to clean water and sanitary conditions to curb the spread of the disease.