National De-worming Day: DHS targets schools, Anganwadi centres

Report by: 
EOI CORRESPONDENT
Port Blair
9 Feb 2017

To combat Soil-transmitted Helminth (STH) infections in this territory, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Govt. of India in February last year launched the National De-worming Day (NDD) as part of National Health Mission. NDD aims to de-worm all children between the ages of 1-19 years through Government, Government-aided and private schools, and anganwadi centres in order to improve their overall well-being, nutritional status, access to education and quality of life. Under this program, all school teachers and anganwadi workers are provided training and resource material to effectively administer the de-worming drug (Albendazole tablets) at school and anganwadi centres.
At a press conference on Thursday, the Director of Health Services, Dr Shipra Paul said that India has the highest burden of STH in the world, with 241 million children at risk of parasitic worm infections. Under-nutrition and anaemia in children has been well documented in India: almost 7 in 10 children in the 6-59 months age-group are anaemic, with even higher rates of anaemia in rural areas. Dr Avijit Roy spelled out further details about the functioning of the state and district level committees constituted for effective implementation of the government mission.
Soil-transmitted Helminth (STH) infections are among the most common infections worldwide and affect the poorest and most deprived communities. They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces, which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor.
Several studies show the detrimental effects of STH on children's educational performance and school attendance. Children with the highest intensity of STH infestation are often too sick or too tired to concentrate at school or attend school at all. STHs interface with nutrient uptake in children; can lead to anaemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development. Rigorous research has shown that they also pose a serious threat to children's overall health and productivity later in life.
In areas where parasitic worms are endemic, administering safe, effective, de-worming drugs to children at schools and anganwadis is a development "best buy" due to its impact on educational and economic outcomes and low cost.  The evidence shows that mass de-worming leads to significant improvement in outcomes related to education, earnings, and long-term well being.