We live near one of the most picturesque places in Africa. The sight of the sun rays reflecting on the sparkling water of Lake Victoria is second to none. The beach resorts are a must visit but be prepared to just sit and stare longingly at the cool waters of the lake on yet another hot Tanzanian day, without jumping in. Why? Because if you do, this is what may await you over the following weeks and months abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stools and in long term cases anemia, liver and spleen enlargement, paralysis (if the spinal cord is involved) and even death. All these symptoms can be caused by Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis), a parasitic disease which completes its germination period in snails and infects human beings by penetrating through healthy skin upon contact with water contaminated with the parasites.
Poor sanitation (open defecation in the lake and lack of outdoor latrines) and lack of safe water for daily chores are among the main causes of the continuation of Bilharzia in Lake Victoria, because out of sheer necessity the villagers will continue to come to the infected lake for water.
Naki is a trainee doctor who in partnership with The Cedar Foundation Tanzania, CUHAS- Bugando (CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF HEALTH AND ALLIED SCIENCES – BUGANDO) Bugando Medical Centre, and Touch Foundation conducted a study on Knowledge, Attitude and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) practices in relation to Bilharzia prevention. The study was conducted in the coastal village of Kamanga, where Cedar Tanzania is working.
This is a community with no treated running water. Not every home has an outdoor latrine, so open defecation out and inside the lake is common, including bathing and the washing of cooking utensils and clothing, all in the very same waters. As expected, Bilharzia complicated medical symptoms amongst the villagers is very common.
It’s another clear and bright day when the Cedar Team watch Naki stand in front of the Kamanga villagers and speak in a clear and bright voice to explain how the bilharzia parasite can be treated from the lake water before being used, by firstly filtering it through a cloth, and then placing the water in a closed container for 48 hours. Boiling it after this will ensure that other infections are gotten rid of, a simple procedure that can save their lives.
We are proud to have been part of this informative meeting. And we hope that our contribution of safety water in the village will not stop here. We will to continue to ask Sengerema council to fulfil their plans to place water pumps throughout the village because doing so will ensure the safety of Kamanga inhabitants from this awful disease.