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The tropical archipelago off Tanzania draws half a million tourists annually. Most are unaware that in its rivers and green pods, burrowing worms carried by snails are on the hunt for human hosts.
The tropical archipelago off Tanzania draws half a million tourists annually. Most are unaware that in its rivers and green pods, burrowing worms carried by snails are on the hunt for human hosts. For years the UK set aside tens of millions of pounds annually to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Africa, of which schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is one. In the decade since 2011, a sliver of that budget took Zanzibar to the brink of eliminating snail fever. But without warning in April last year, Britain announced it was ending such funding as part of £4.2 billion in foreign aid cuts*.
“We are seeing sporadic cases in places that had zero schistosomiasis,” said Dr January Zilabumba, an adviser to the health ministry’s NTD programme. “That means all efforts and resources that have been put in would be wasted.”
In Zanzibar, British aid money made up 72 per cent of the total schistosomiasis funding pool in the year 2020-21. In the past year, the programme has received nothing from the UK.
“It’s just so frustrating that in that last mile [the UK government] seems to have abandoned the cause,” said Dr Wendy Harrison, chief executive of the SCI Foundation.
*Excerpt from the original article published by Charlie Mitchell in The Sunday Times on 16th October 2022.
Read the full article here or download the pdf.