THE Ministry of Health (MOH) wants to eradicate filariasis in Fiji by 2018.
The ministry had initially set a target to eliminate the parasitic disease by 2015 but had to rethink this goal because recent surveys showed filariasis was still prevalent in most divisions in the country, especially in the Central Eastern and the North.
"The mosquitoes that carry the filariasis parasite breed in crab holes. Because we cannot spray these crab holes for health reasons, we have to undergo a mass drug administration which is what we have been doing since 2007," national adviser Dr Mike Kama said. Between the 1950s and the 1990s, surveys by the MOH and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had shown 16 per cent of the population suffered from the disease, particularly males in the indigenous population.
This percentage decreased in 2007 to 9.6 per cent. In 2008 and 2011, mass drug campaigns were carried out for three weeks and only the Western Division achieved elimination. This year, the mass drug administration will be carried out for only three days.
"The urgency to get the filariasis removed from Fiji is urgent, very urgent," Dr Kama said.
The MOH and WHO have changed the filariasis campaign entirely this year. Instead of people visiting health centres to receive their drugs and taking it home for consumption, they will have a Filariasis Free Weekend campaign from October 26 during which 3000 volunteers will go from house to house in the Central Eastern and North divisions to distribute the drugs and ensure people take the pills in their presence.
"The West has proved that elimination can be done, it is just up to us individuals to uphold our community responsibility and eliminate it from other parts of Fiji," Dr Kama said.
They have targeted half a million people to be registered and take the drugs during the Filariasis Free Weekend.