By Kadrie Koroma
Deputy Health and Sanitation Minister 1, Madam Madina Rahman has officially launched the Mass Drug Administration for the prevention and control of Lymphatic Filiariasis (Big Fut) Campaign at the Sierra Leone International Mission (SLIM) Clinic Old Wharf in Freetown.
Addressing the launching ceremony, Madam Madina Rahman underscored the importance of the campaign, stating that Lymphatic Filiariasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by infection with parasitic tread like filarial worms transmitted through mosquito bites.
She informed her audience that these filarial worms obstruct the lymphatic system causing swelling and enlargement of body parts leading to pain, severe disability and social stigma. She noted that the pain and physical disfiguring of affected individuals does not only lead to disability, but also psychological trauma, social and economic challenges contributing to poverty.
Madam Rahman reiterated that the Mass Drug Administration is among the key preventive strategy for the interruption and transmission of lymphatic filiariasis, adding that large scale annual treatment of all eligible people with two drugs of Ivermectin and Albendazole for 4-6 years can interrupt the transmission cycle.
She disclosed that pregnant women, children under five, post-partum women within two weeks of delivery, severely ill persons and very old and frail individuals are excluded from taking the drug. She added that the campaign is targeting about 1.5 million eligible beneficiaries in the Western Area, adding that with the use of both static and mobile teams for five days and the use of community health workers for the drug distribution.
The Deputy Minister stated that approximately 135,000 people in the Western Area have never taken the “Big Fut en Worrum Meresin” and a similar number have only taken once even though the programme has been implementing annually since 2010.
She thanked the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Family Health International 360 and Helen Keller International for supporting the campaign, and appealed to the public to fully participate to help eliminate “Big Fut” in Sierra Leone.
In his statement, Helen Keller International (HKI) Deputy Country Director, Zachary Lubwama, described the launching as another milestone in the campaign against Lymphatic Filiariasis known as Big Fut and worms in the Western Area.
He said since 2010, the District Health Management Team in collaboration with the National Neglected Tropical Disease Programme has been conducting these annual Mass Drug Administration to eliminate “big fut” and control worms reaching 80 percent of the estimated population.
Mr. Lubwama disclosed that since 2012 approximately 1.3 million residents in the Western Area received both Ivermectin and Albendazole. He added that about 10 percent of Sierra Leoneans have not yet taken Ivermectin and Albendazole and another 10 percent have only participated once or twice since 2008 when the programme started.
He appealed to all to come forward to take these medicines during the campaign and encouraged friends, neighbors, families, teenagers, students, colleagues, employees and any vulnerable groups to take these drugs during the five days campaign. He added that this campaign will be the last campaign in the Western Area and need to ensure good participation to enable the Health Ministry to eliminate the transmission of big fut.
The Deputy Country Director informed the gathering that Sierra Leone will be one of the first countries in West Africa to reach this remarkable achievement but only with the public cooperation.
Skit performance by Vamboi and team and administration of drugs to participants and dignitaries formed high point of the launching.