Intestinal worms, bilharzia affect millions of locals in four counties

Ascaris lumbricoides, which inhabit the human intestine and cause the disease ascariasis. [iStockphoto]

Eric Maloba's five-year-old son underwent surgery to remove intestinal worms. According to Maloba, who hails from Matungu in Kakamega County, the worms had taken a huge toll on his son's health.

"He was malnourished and stunted because he never used to eat like a child would," said Maloba. "People mistook my son for a two-year-old baby because he was weak and could hardly walk."

In 2021, the son was discovered to have intestinal worms. "The worms could come out whenever he vomited. They were many," says Maloba.

After the surgery, the boy started eating and regaining his health. "I am happy he is healthy and strong like any other normal child after all he went through."

Maloba is among champions spearheading the campaign against intestinal worms and bilharzia in Western Kenya counties.

Christine Khavari, a mother of a two-year-old girl went through a similar experience. She has been championing for the treatment of the worms after her daughter fell sick.

"My daughter lost appetite and I almost lost her, fortunately we rushed her to a health centre at Emusutsi in Vihiga where it was discovered she had intestinal worms."

The intestinal worms are caused by consuming infected water and food, inappropriate hygiene, eating under-cooked meat and contact with germ infected surfaces. Experts warn that intestinal worm disease causes stunted growth in children, anemia, malnutrition and poor school performance.

A report by the Ministry of Health cited Vihiga, Busia, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia as areas where residents are at high risk. The report shows five million residents could be infected by intestinal worms while 1.5 million are likely to suffer from bilharzia.

Based on the ministry's findings, a mass drug administration and sensitisation exercise was started in the four counties.

In October last year, the ministry in collaboration with End Fund through Amref Health Africa and other partners embarked on a mass testing drive in the four counties to determine the prevalence of the two diseases and treat it.