By Ndidichukwu Odoh
When 86 years old Maryann Sunda was given three tablets of Mectizan and one Albendazole tablet in August, she woke up the next day to see a swollen leg, after three days, the legs were normal again.
“I used to feel that something was moving around my body, especially my leg, it was difficult for me to walk properly, when they gave me the drugs, my leg became big, I was worried, but later my leg was normal again, now I do not feel the movement again, I can walk for a distance and my body feel strong, Kakaraka” said Sunda an elderly native of Ogbo community in Ahoada East Local Government of Rivers State.
One of the ways UNICEF is responding to prevention of Neglected Tropical Diseases is the Mass Administration of Medicine (MAM) like Mectizan and Albendazole tablets for prevention Elephantiasis and River Blindness. UNICEF has carried out first phase of MAM in Ahoada East, Bonny, Ikwere and Andoni Local Governments of Rivers State, Nigeria.
Residents of the communities reached, report that the tablets did not only prevent infections but made them healthier. Between children and the elderly, Mectizan and Albendazole have proven effectiveness and acceptability among residents in Rivers communities.
Rivers Communities were sensitized about the prevention of Elephantiasis and River blindness with the use of Mectizan and Albendazole in Ula-Upata Community of Ahoada East. “when I took the tablets, after two hours, I rushed to the toilet, I also felt my skin was itching me seriously after two days I did not feel the itchy skin again, It has not happened to me again since that time” said Sunda’s daughter Elizabeth.
In Ayamboko community of Andoni Local Government, 11 years old Barrack Ekenedion and his friend Dick Abraham Power, said the Community implementers visited their school to administer Mectizan and Albendazole, for Barrack no reaction was noticed, however his friend Abraham, felt weak and slept all day when he got home from school.
While most of the children who received the tablets reported body weakness and the urge to sleep, 7 years old Peace John noticed the presence of worms in her excreta. Her mother, Beatrice said
“I was very happy that the worm came out, she has been having stomach problems, and since the drugs were given to her she feels better”
During MAM, UNICEF’s trained Community Implementers sensitized the communities on Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) which happens when a female blackfly bites an infected person to take blood. Baby worms under the person’s skin are transferred to the blackfly. The baby worms are then injected into the skin of other people when the blackfly bites them.
Lieze Gibson, Assistant Disease Surveillance and Notification Officer and NTD coordinator in Andoni, said Knowledge is power, and prevention is key to good health,
“Our sensitization messages were understood and we recorded 90% acceptability for the tablets in my community. Our geographical coverage for the first phase was high too” She said.
Through MAM, sensitization about prevention of Elephantiasis and River Blindness improved, more people in the Local governments are now knowledgeable and willing to receive the tablets during the next phase.