Over 200,000 people, most of them infected with Schistosoma mansoni inhabit 150 islands in Lake Victoria in Uganda. Although a programme to control the disease has been ongoing since 2003, its implementation in islands is inadequate due to high transport costs on water. In 2011 and 2012, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (GNNTD) through Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) provided financial support to ease treatment delivery on the islands and over the period, therapeutic coverage has been increasing. We conducted a study with an objective to assess community awareness of existence of the disease, its signs, symptoms, causes and transmission as well as attitude, practice and health seeking behavior.
METHODS: This was a cross sectional descriptive study which used pre-tested interviewer administered questionnaire among purposively selected individuals in schools, health facilities and communities. Frequency distribution tables, graphs and cross tabulations were the main forms of data presentation.
RESULTS: Our results showed that there are numerous challenges that must be overcome to achieve effective control of schistosomiasis in the islands. Many people especially young men are constantly on the move from island to island in search for richer fishing grounds and such groups are commonly known to miss treatment by mass chemotherapy. Unfortunately case management in health facilities is very poor; health facilities are few and understaffed mainly with unskilled personnel who are overburdened by other illnesses such as malaria and HIV and the supply of praziquantel in health facilities is inadequate. Furthermore, sanitation is appalling, no clean water and community knowledge about schistosomiasis is low even among biomedical staff.
CONCLUSION: Rather than elimination, our results indicate that the programme should continue to target morbidity control beyond the 2020s until preventive measures have been instituted. The government should provide adequate trained health workers and stock praziquantel in all island health facilities.