The West African country has received around 34 million tablets for mass distribution to school children.
With this, Merck has donated more tablets to a single country than it did to the entire continent in 2012 (27 million).
Today in Geneva, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, expressed his country’s thanks to Merck and the World Health Organization (WHO) for their joint efforts in the fight against the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis.
Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck, met the minister on the occasion of the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of WHO, in Geneva. The participants included Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health of Ethiopia, as well as WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Ren Minghui.
“We want to eliminate the insidious worm disease and give children the opportunity to participate in the economic development of their home countries. Our donation of 34 million tablets to WHO for Nigeria – enough to treat 13.6 million school children – shows that we are on the right track. However, millions of children still suffer from schistosomiasis. And we know that we alone cannot solve the problem with our tablets,” said Mr. Oschmann.
In Africa, Merck is supporting educational and awareness programs, researching schistosomiasis therapies for very young children and cooperating with partners in the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, among other things.
“Furthermore, in the future we will collaborate even more closely with our partners to finally eliminate schistosomiasis,” Mr. Oschmann continued.
“With more than 235 million people requiring treatment, schistosomiasis is one of the most prevalent tropical diseases in Africa. The worm disease is widespread in all regions of Nigeria, above all among children. We are therefore grateful for every sustained initiative that supports us in fighting schistosomiasis,” said Mr. Adewole.
Mr. Admasu added, “Merck’s commitment not only helps children who are ill – it also relieves the public healthcare systems of the affected countries.”
In his own comment, WHO Assistant Director-General, Minghui, said, “Medicine donations such as this are essential to the fight against neglected tropical diseases. If we are to meet the ambitious sustainable development goals, we need the strong engagement of the private sector, sectors outside health and all development partners.”
As part of its responsibility for society and within Health, one of its corporate responsibility strategic spheres of activity, Merck is supporting WHO in the fight against the worm disease schistosomiasis in Africa.
Praziquantel is well tolerated and the most effective treatment to date for schistosomiasis. Since 2007, more than 74 million patients, primarily school children, have been treated. To this end, Merck has donated over 340 million tablets to WHO.
According to WHO, Nigeria is the world’s most endemic country for schistosomiasis. It is estimated that around 37% of the overall population (64.1 million people) requires treatment. Nigeria has been participating in the Merck Praziquantel Donation Programme since 2008.
Schistosomiasis, WHO says on its website, is a disease of poverty that leads to chronic ill-health.
“Infection is acquired when people come into contact with fresh water infested with the larval forms (cercariae) of parasitic blood flukes, known as schistosomes,” the world health body said.
“The microscopic adult worms live in the veins draining the urinary tract and intestines. Most of the eggs they lay are trapped in the tissues and the body’s reaction to them can cause massive damage.
“Schistosomiasis affects almost 240 million people worldwide, and more than 700 million people live in endemic areas. The infection is prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical areas, in poor communities without potable water and adequate sanitation.
“Urogenital schistosomiasis is caused by Schistosoma haematobium and intestinal schistosomiasis by any of the organisms S. guineensis, S. intercalatum, S.mansoni, S. japonicum, and S. mekongi.”
To date, through WHO Merck has donated nearly 105 million tablets to Nigeria, making it the main beneficiary country of the donation program. In total, nearly 20 million Nigerian patients have been treated to date, primarily school children.