Government to step up deworming efforts

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By OUMA WANZALA
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The government will step up deworming of school-going children as it boasts of the achievements realised by the programme in the last four years.

Speaking in Nairobi during the release of a report on school deworming, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said the programme has treated 6.4 million children in the last four years in more than 16,000 schools across 27 endemic counties, surpassing the 5.5 million target.

Dr Kipsang said the achievement is more than 80 per cent of the available 23,000 schools and will continue to expand.

“During the start of the programme we had 700,000 children out of school benefiting [from the] programme, now we have 418, 000,” Dr Kipsang said Thursday.

Dr Kipsang said the initiative has been a success due to collaborative efforts and strategic approach among stakeholders.

The programme has operated since 2009 when 3.6 million children were dewormed, and it was expanded to a national activity in 2011.

Treatment takes place in schools at endemic areas and selection is determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria.

ECONOMIC BURDEN
It is estimated that Kenya loses about Sh57 billion annually in sanitation related issues.

On May 24 this year, Kenya marked the first national Deworming Day in Taita Taveta, one of the endemic counties.

Health Principal Secretary Julius Korir observed that health and education are key pillars in the society that contribute to the economy.

“School–aged children make up to 42 per cent of Kenya’s population whose health is critical in them achieving full potential.

“The objective of this programme is to eliminate worms as a public health problem for children in Kenya. Deworming is a priority key performance indicator of the Ministry,” Mr Korir said.

According to the WHO, helminths are a group of parasites commonly referred to as worms and include schistosomes and soil-transmitted helminths.

Schistosome and soil-transmitted helminth infections are among the most common infections in developing countries; and can cause internal bleeding, which can lead to loss of iron and anaemia; diarrhoea and loss of appetite, which can lead to a reduction in energy intake.

Additionally, Mr Korir said the learning among those affected is likely to deteriorate.

“Persistent infection with common worms is known to damage children’s health and nutrition, hamper their cognitive development, and thus compromise their education and future prospects,” he said.

Fortunately, he added, through the programme, the health of learners has improved, which has brought about positive outcomes.

He also said re-infection rates should be addressed.

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