Local officials in Pakwach are blaming the persistent cases of bilharzia, a major neglected tropical disease in the district, to rampant open defecation along the river banks.

Currently, over 55,000 Pakwach residents are infected with the diseases with an overall prevalence rate of 28 %, according to information obtained from the district health office.

Noah Ukumu, the Pakwach District bilharzia focal person explains that the most affected sub counties are those located along the Nile River such as Panyimur Town Council with a prevalence rate of 73.4 percent followed by Pakwach Sub County with 57.7 percent prevalence rate. 

According to Ukumu, the disease has also spread to other sub counties such as Dei Sub ,Alwi , Panyimur among others.

Judith Kigezi, the Pakwach District Environmental Health Officer, attributes the persistent cases of Bilharzia to the rampant practice of open defecation especially along the fish landing sites in the district.

Bilharzia also known as intestinal schistosomiasis is one of the leading causes of morbidity and disability in many fishing communities lying along large water bodies in Uganda. Infection occurs when the parasite’s larvae penetrate a person’s skin during contact with infested water, often through fishing, swimming, bathing, and washing clothes.

Dr. Paul Ajal, the Pakwach District Health Officer, appealed to the ministry of health to ensure that the Bilharzia drugs are mainstreamed in the routine drug supply delivery for the district. 

Ajal further noted that currently most health center facilities lack the essential drugs, something which is frustrating their efforts in combating the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), intestinal schistosomiasis can result in abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and blood in the stool. Liver enlargement is common in advanced cases.  It is estimated that Bilharzia affects almost 240 million people worldwide, and more than 700 million people live in endemic areas, according to the UN health body.


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