Ethiopian School-Based Deworming Campaign Targets 17 Million Children
More than 17 million children aged 5—14 years will be treated for two neglected tropical diseases — soil-transmitted helminthiases (intestinal worms) and schistosomiasis (bilharzia) between 23 November 2015 and 29 February 2016. The programme by the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health started late last month in Hawassa in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region.
The country-wide initiative of the Ministry of Health is supported by the Ministry of Education and aims at reducing the parasitic burden of both diseases. "This is the biggest deworming campaign ever covering 459 woredas (districts) in all 11 regions of the country," says Dr Paul Mainuka, acting WHO Representative for Ethiopia, "Thousands of teachers and health extension workers have received training and are mobilized to complete this ambitious project in a timely manner. WHO teams have been working alongside the Ministry in the preparations and implementation of the campaign." The deworming will mainly be done in schools for the specified age group. Children between the same age group who are not enrolled in schools will also be treated. Soil-transmitted helminthiases (STH) are widespread in the country, with an estimated 88 million people living in STH-endemic areas. Close to 28 million of these are school-age children and 23 million of these live in areas with high infection rates and therefore qualify for STH-treatment. Schistosomiasis is also endemic in the country with an estimated 56 million people living in endemic areas. The current effort to deworm large populations is the fourth MDA since 2007. In the first MDA in 2007, one million school-age children were dewormed for STH and Schistosomiasis; and 6.8 million and 7.8 million school-age children received similar treatments in 2013 and 2014, respectively. For the ongoing MDA, World Health Organization (WHO) made the drugs available through donations from Merck Inc. and Johnson & Johnson — Merck Inc. provided Praziquantel, and Children without Worms (CWW) provided Mebendazole doses donated by Johnson & Johnson. The WHO Ethiopia Country Office also provided technical support in training of drug distributors and supportive supervision of the drug distribution in all regions. Other partners of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Program helped cover the operational cost of the campaign. This MDA is the first of two rounds planned for 2015—2016. According to current plans, the second round of MDA will take place in April 2016. In addition to been the most cost-effective way to fight worm infection, MDA also contributes to good health and nutrition for children, especially the most disadvantaged children. This has the overall benefit of alleviating the burden of ill health and malnutrition on the poor; and increased school enrolment, attendance, and educational attainment.