Over 700,000 Children to be de-wormed this Week in Cross River Schools
Stakeholders in Cross River’s statewide school-based deworming program have given their commitment to replicate the success achieved in 2016 programme implementation and surpass the coverage in the 2017 programme of action.
Last year in a pilot exercise, it resulted in more than 700,000 children dewormed in over 1,700 schools.
Comrade Thomas Igbang, Coordinator for Cross River State’s Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) programme, affirmed that “the NTD team is committed to eliminating the public health problem of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis by 2020 as envisioned by the Cross River State Strategic Plan 2015.”
Comrade Igbang said this year’s school-based campaign will complement the recently conducted community-based treatment against lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis (River Blindness) in 17 Local Government Areas in the state.
He said, all school-age children (ages 5-14), regardless of their enrollment status, are eligible to be treated and that rigorous studies have shown that children who are dewormed experience improved health, education, and economic outcomes both during childhood and later in life.
He maintained that “following guidelines from the Federal Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), mebendazole will be used to treat for soil-transmitted helminths (STH) in 7 LGAs, while praziquantel will be used to treat for schistosomiasis in 9 LGAs. “Both medicines are very safe and side effects are very mild and rare.
Teachers have been trained to safely and effectively administer the medicines to children and will do so during the course of the school day. Adding that “as an extra precaution, frontline health facility workers have also been trained by the state team and will be well-prepared to respond to any needs that could possibly arise.
Also speaking on this year’s exercise billed to kick-off on Wednesday May 31. Mr. Abia Chris Abia, Director of Administration from the Cross River State Ministry of Education, also remarked that the team’s leadership is evident in this program.
“The massive awareness campaign as a result of this program has helped to dispel superstitious beliefs that had limited the success of this exercise in the past”, Abia said.
He noted that “the Hon. Commissioner is encouraging all parents and guardians to allow their children to participate in this year’s 2017 free deworming exercise. Schools are also open for non-registered children to access these medicines.”
It can be recalled that last year, the Cross River State health and education sectors began collaborating to combat these two neglected tropical diseases, which are significant public health burdens among its populace. Among all countries worldwide, Nigeria bears the second-highest burden of these worms (second only to India) which cause anaemia, malnutrition, and decreased school attendance.
Chronic cases of schistosomiasis can lead to significant organ damage and other diseases. Nigeria has the second-highest worm burden among school-age children in the world, but the Cross River State government is working to change this.
School-based deworming is implemented by the NTD program of the Cross River State Ministry of Health in partnership with the State Ministry of Education including the State Universal Board of Basic Education. The program is supported by Evidence Action, and USAID’s ENVISION project led by RTI International and other donors.
Deworming drugs are donated by Merck KGaA (praziquantel for schistosomiasis) and Johnson & Johnson (mebendazole for STH) through the World Health Organization’s drug donation program. Research shows treated children experience better health, educational attainment, and economic outcomes.