I have a grade school child and, as an American, I can barely conceive what this would be like; I get request for money for the PTA and book fair announcements. I have never thought about this kind of suffering – now I hope I never forget. – Ed.
Food for the Hungry / 12 NOV 2014 – Have you ever had stomach pain so severe that you felt sick all of the time and could not concentrate? If you ask children why they are not in school, you will get a variety of answers. Some answers might even be very funny. But very few would tell you intestinal worms are the cause of their absence. Unless, of course, you live in a developing country. For many children there, the pain of intestinal worms is very real.
Evidence uncovered through campaigns with Food for the Hungry (FH) and other NGOs has indicated that over 600 million school-age children are at risk of parasite infection. Worm infections interfere with nutrient uptake; can lead to anemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development; and pose a serious threat to children’s health, education and productivity. Infected children often are too sick or too tired to concentrate at school, or attend at all.
When we understand that one-third of all the people in the world are afflicted by intestinal parasites, we realize that someone must help to eradicate this problem and help impoverished people receive more nutrients from their scarce supply of food. Working with FH, the Republic of Burundi launched a national campaign to deworm all of the country’s children. FH supplied over 8.3 million tablets to be distributed throughout the nation.
One mother reported that her son, Janvier, used to be sick all of the time. After receiving the deworming medication that FH provided, Janvier no longer experiences bouts of diarrhea or any other worm-related complications. His mother, along with all of the other mothers, were taught about personal hygiene, including the importance of cleanliness and proper hand washing.
In the Kirundo province, Angelique would go to school even when she felt bad with the pain in her stomach, but she had to stay home if she had diarrhea. Unfortunately, her mother did not know what was causing such episodes of illness. Angelique’s health improved after she received the deworming medication. Her mother attributed the parasite infestations to drinking water that which the family had to collect in an unclean pot when it would rain. FH constructed a protected water source in the community and provided families small jerricans to keep the water clean and well covered.
With hundreds of millions of children still at risk of worm infection worldwide, providing free, school-based deworming treatment is an easy policy “win” for health, education and development. Oral deworming drugs are extremely effective at killing most varieties of worms with a single dose, at a cost of only a few cents. Administering the drugs twice annually maintains the children’s health and helps them thrive.
Lessons from a series of studies evaluating the Primary School Deworming Project (PSDP) in western Kenya help to reinforce FH’s findings from its campaigns.
- Deworming treatment improved health and reduced absenteeism.
- Even untreated children benefited from deworming because there are fewer cases to spread infection.
- Deworming improved cognitive outcomes for infants who were not treated directly.
- Treated students continued to benefit a decade after the program.
FH is dedicated to continuing the deworming of children through its campaigns and programs of education, as well as providing the easy-to-administer oral medication in schools throughout Africa.
To help, go to Food for the Hungry.