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Deworm the world
Deworm the World has successfully enabled school-based deworming efforts reaching over 40 million children in 27 countries by helping governments launch, strengthen and sustain national programs.The initiative was launched in 2007 by a group of Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum in response to the strong evidence for school-based deworming and widespread global need to rid children of parasitic worms.
The big cost of small worms
Parasitic worms (soil transmitted helminths and schistosomes) infect more than 1 in 4 people worldwide, most of whom are children. Not only are they more likely to be infected with worms, but children also bear the worst effects of worm infections due to the special requirements of growing bodies and minds. Parasitic worms interfere with a child's nutrient uptake and can lead to anaemia, malnutrition and even impaired mental and physical development. As a result, infected children are often too sick or tired to concentrate and learn in school, or attend at all.
A simple and cost-effective solution
Fortunately, both treatment for parasitic worms and a highly efficient distribution method exist. By using the extensive infrastructure of the school system, thousands of teachers can be taught to safely administer deworming tablets, and millions of children can be reached in a matter of days. Mass school-based deworming is also cost-effective and highly scalable, costing less than US$0.50 per child per year. And it's not only school children who benefit. Even non-enrolled children can be effectively reached through a school-based program, and, in fact, 1 million non-enrolled children were dewormed in the 2011 Bihar program. A mass campaign such as this has the added benefit of reducing worm prevalence in the community as a whole, and therefore reducing the likelihood of worm infection even in those who were not dewormed.
Research shows that the benefits of deworming occur both immediately and in the long term. Regular treatment through such campaigns has been shown to decrease school absenteeism by 25%, by far the most cost-effective method of increasing school attendance. And, remarkably, deworming school-age children has been shown to increase adulthood earnings by 20% among wage-earners. Simply put, deworming children gives each one a better shot at their dreams.
“Deworm the World tackles a problem most [people] don’t even think about: intestinal worms. Most kids in poor countries have worms, and the result is anaemia, malnutrition and sicknesses that cause absences from school. One of the most cost-effective ways of getting more children into school appears to be deworming them with one pill a year.”
Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times.
Photos courtesy of Esther Havens
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