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Bilharzia threatens Malawi’s tourism

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Health experts have warned that Malawi’s tourism sector is under threat following latest reports that Lake Malawi is infested with schistosomes, a type of worms that cause bilharzia.

Ministry of Health (MoH) officials said, during a media briefing in Mzuzu last Thursday, that, due to the development, international tourists have been shunning the country.

MoH Programme Manager, Laston Sitima, said there is need to invest in prevention and treatment of bilharzia which he said is among neglected tropical diseases.

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“Tourism contributes an average of 7 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Whatever the case, that is way below the potential revenue if health issues such as bilharzia were properly addressed,” Sitima said.

He further said that majority of Malawians remain at risk of infection, especially those along the lakeshore areas where 20 percent of Malawi’s population is concentrated.

“In continued efforts to reduce the prevalence of the disease with help from GIZ, we will again conduct a Mass Drug Administration exercise across the country from July 10 to 14,” he said.

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Seven million Malawians between ages of five and 15 are being targeted with the exception of lakeshore districts and the lower shire where people of all ages will be treated.

In his comment, District Information Officer for Mzimba North, Andrew Banda, implored journalists to help popularise the campaign and also demystify the cause.

“You are not just doing it for the tourism sector but also millions of countrymen who are in danger. It’s our responsibility to help government save resources that could be used in treating patients when infection is at advanced stages,” Banda stressed.

Statistics show that bilharzia and intestinal worms cause 300,000 deaths a year in Africa with a majority of them occurring in sub-Saharan Africa where Malawi lies.

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