Laos - Containment of Parasitic Infections
"Never before have I seen such a successful project for fighting schistosomiasis" summarises Dr Lester Chistulo, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) expert, the results of the long-standing GPHF project for diagnosing and treating schistosomiasis. Since the beginning of the nineties, the GPHF has worked together with the World Health Organization and the Laotian health authorities on this project in the province of Champassak on the Mekong River which was finalised in 2000.
In 1989, the first methodical diagnosis of the population living in the project area showed that, on average, more than 40 percent of the inhabitants were infected with the schistosomiasis pathogen. Many people suffered from diarrhoea and from jaundice with abdominal cramps. Some eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver and bile-duct carcinoma – both long-term consequences of this disease. Thanks to the excellent efficacy of praziquantel (initially administered every one to two years within a single-group treatment program), a comprehensive educational campaign which particularly addressed schoolchildren, and a special prevention program addressing the local health care institutions, only 0.5 percent of the inhabitants were affected by this serious disease by 1999.
The long-term funding of this project by the GPHF was the basis for the first-ever lasting health care structures set up in this rural area, structures that in most cases are completely lacking in the inaccessible Mekong region. At a workshop marking the completion of the project, the project partners expressed confidence in their ability to maintain the progress made by a consistent continuation of the preventive measures leading to sustained improvement of health care in one of the poorest countries of southeast Asia.