De-Worming Campaign Reaches 120,000 in Port-au-Prince
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Washington, DC – March 31, 2009 – The De-Worming Haiti Campaign will reach 500,000 Haitians by the end of 2009. It is a model for many poor countries.
Public Health experts at Johns Hopkins University say 2 billion people – one-third of the world’s population – carry hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, or schistosomiasis. The widely used drugs for intestinal worms are albendazole and Mebendazole. One pill costs just over a penny and has a shelf life of four years. Each pill is a dose for one child for a year. International Action has brought 500,000 albendazole pills to Haiti.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says worms eat up to 20% of a child’s nutritional intake every day. Haitians are among the poorest fed children in the world and no child there can afford to lose 20% of their food.
The effects of such losses are anemia, vitamin deficiencies, a weakened immune system, lethargy, and poor cognitive development. Intestinal worms magnify the impact of chronic diarrhea from bad water, common in all parts of Port-au-Prince.
The World Bank recommends that de-worming programs work through the schools. They argue that in highly infected areas broad scale de-worming will lower the risk of re-infection for all children. Videos of International Action’s program at Terre Promise School (Promised Land School in English) document the distribution of albendazole. International Action is following the World Bank’s suggestion.
Further, the World Bank argues against screening children for worms in highly infected areas. “Individual screening offers no benefits. And, it is not effective. It costs four to ten times more than the treatment itself.” Adding, “…The treatment is safe even for those children who are uninfected.”
Studies in developing countries confirm that children with intense worm infections perform poorly in learning ability tests, cognitive function and educational achievement. Test differences equal to 6 months in age were seen in 60 million children with heavy worm infections. The World Bank concluded, “De-worming was the most cost-effective method of improving school participation.”
The Johns Hopkins University went even further: “The number of childhood deaths indirectly related to worms is huge. An estimated 3.9 million children die each year from lower respiratory infections, 1.8 million from diarrheal diseases, and roughly 1 million from malaria. In many cases, worms greatly weaken children’s immune systems, making them susceptible to those killer diseases.”
International Action received the de-worming medicine through Aaron Jackson, whose non-profit Planting Peace has worked in Haiti since 2005. Jackson was featured as a CNN Hero recently for his de-worming campaign in Haiti. For further information, visit: www.plantingpeace.org.