Deworming 574,000 children for a safe and healthy future
December 23, 2019: The First Lady of Pakistan, Mrs. Samina Alvi, launched the 2nd annual mass deworming campaign of the Islamabad Deworming Initiative at Islamabad Model College for Girls, F-7/4 Islamabad. The school-based deworming program will treat 574,000 school-age children within 2,300 government and private schools, as well as Deeni Madaris, in Islamabad Capital Territory on 23rd January 2020. All children enrolled in classes 1-10 and out-of-school children aged 5 – 14, will be encouraged to access treatment at a nearby school on deworming day.
Ms. Samina Alvi, the chief guest of the launch event, remarked that “annual mass deworming is very important for our children, as it will ensure their improved physical and cognitive growth, resistance to other infections and improved school performance. Moreover, mass deworming is in direct support of and positively impacts Pakistan’s progression toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Government of Pakistan’s top health priorities, reducing undernutrition and anemia. Deworming is a quick, easy and safe measure to better the health and future of our children!”
Federal Education Minister, Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Ms. Kanwal Shauzab and Parliamentary Secretary for Federal Health Dr. Nausheen Hamid also graced the event. They urged parents and guardians to send their children aged 5 – 14 to their nearest government or private school on 23rd January, 2020 during school timings for free and safe deworming medicine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.5 billion people, or nearly 1 in 4 of the world’s population, are infected globally with intestinal worms, also known as soil-transmitted helminths, with over 835 million children in need of treatment. These infections result from poor sanitation and hygiene conditions and tend to have the highest prevalence in school-age children. A national survey to assess intestinal worm infection in school-age children in 2016 found that approximately 17 million school-age children across Pakistan, including approximately 574,000 children in ICT, are in need of regular deworming.
Ms. Samina Alvi further stated, “To address the prevailing risk of intestinal worm infection, the Islamabad Deworming Initiative conducted its first round of mass deworming in January 2019, successfully treating 200,320 children. This second round of mass deworming will aim to treat 574,000 children or 100% of the children at risk of intestinal worm infection.”
The school-based deworming program is coordinated and led by the Ministry of Planning Development & Special Initiatives and the Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination, ICT Administration and Capital Development Authority/ Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad. IRD Pakistan, Evidence Action and Indus Health Network provide technical assistance to federal and provincial governments to ensure high-quality program delivery. Deworming drugs (Mebendazole 500 mg) are donated through the WHO drug donation program.
Parliamentary Secretary for Planning Development & Special Initiatives, Ms. Kanwal Shauzab expressed her pride and said, “I am pleased that this program is up and running. Not only government funds have been allocated to this program through PC-1 but also Islamabad Deworming Initiative was mentioned as a Government-led Nutrition & Health Program in Economic Survey of Pakistan publication of 2018-19.”
Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination, Dr. Nausheen Hamid, quoted, “It is the mandate of the Ministry of National Health to help the people of Pakistan to maintain and improve their health and to make our population among the healthier in the region. Since children account for one-third of Pakistan’s population, we open-heartedly welcomed the school-based deworming program in Pakistan and in ICT, as this will not only improve the health of our children but will also benefit our society as a whole.”
Minister Federal Education & Professional Training, Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, demonstrated his pride for the deworming program which aims to target both enrolled and out-of-school children, ensuring no school-age child is left behind. He further added, “Benefits of school-based deworming are demonstrated through a rigorous body of evidence proving that mass deworming improved both health and academic performance of school-age children.”
Deworming day is set to be conducted on 23rd January 2020 for all children enrolled in classes 1 – 10 and out-of-school, aged 5 – 14.