Lagos State Government has commenced free school based deworming exercise to treat soil transmitted helminthiasis (STH), targeting 1.3 million school aged children between ages of five and 14 year who are at risk of parasitic worm infections in the State
The exercise which is being implemented in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health and a non-governmental organisation, Evidence Action holds in 10 soil transmitted helminthiasis endemic local governments including; Ajeromi/ Ifelodun, Amuwo Odofin, Apapa, Badagry, Epe, Ibeju Lekki, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Ojo and Shomolu.
Speaking to newsmen on the modalities for the implementation of the exercise, the State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi disclosed that the five days exercise will be carried out from Tuesday 22nd to Saturday 26th November, 2022.
He added that children, aged five and 14 years, in Schools and communities in the 10 LGAs will be dewormed and treated for soil transmitted helminthiasis using Albendazole Tablets during the exercise.
In his words: “The Lagos State Ministry of Health is happy to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and Evidence Action to commence implementation of the biannual school based deworming exercise targeting children 5 to 14 years, enrolled and non-enrolled in Primary and Junior Secondary Schools to treat soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) using Albendazole; a medication used to treat infections caused by worms.
“This round of treatment will focus on 10 endemic LGAs – Ajeromi/ Ifelodun, Amuwo Odofin, Apapa, Badagry, Epe, Ibeju Lekki, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Ojo and Shomolu reaching approximately over 1.3 million at-risk children in primary and junior secondary public and private schools with safe and free medicines received from World Health Organization drug donation program.”
Abayomi disclosed that more than 1.5 billion people, representing 24% of the world’s population, are infected with soil-transmitted helminth infections adding that over 875 million of this population are children.
He explained that Nigeria has the second-largest population of infected children worldwide with the prevalence of about 29 million cases, bringing to fore the need to put in place strategies to treat and eliminate soil-transmitted helminth and schistosomiasis infections.
“According to various surveys that have been conducted by the FMOH, Soil transmitted helminthiases and schistosomiasis have been detected in several LGAs at a level that require mass treatment of all school-age children. Soil-transmitted helminths are significant public health burdens in Nigeria.Evidence has shown that worm infections interfere with nutrient uptake causing anemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development”, Abayomi stated.
The Commissioner noted that School-age children are particularly vulnerable and most at risk stressing that the infection pose a serious threat to children’s health, education, and economic potential as School-age children harbor the highest intensity of infection by soil-transmitted helminths.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) and Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) recommend a mass administration of deworming medicines using a large-scale school-based and community-based approach to control this disease. School-based deworming is a safe, simple, and cost-effective solution to reducing the burden of parasitic worm infections in children”, he said.
Abayomi noted that School-based deworming is an important evidence-based strategy to treat children at risk of parasitic worm infections adding that teachers and community health workers have been trained to safely and effectively administer the medicines to the children.
While urging residents in the affected LGAs to take advantage of exercise, the Commissioner noted that the exercise reflects the State Government’ commitments towards a worm-free state for all, especially school aged children.
“The state is proud to be able to provide treatment across these endemic Local Government Areas with plans to scale up in the coming years through active collaboration with the State Ministry of Education, SUBEB, Federal Ministry of Health, and in partnership with Evidence Action”, He said.
Also speaking, the South-West Program Manager, Evidence Action, Maryann Edeh who represented the Director West and Central Africa, noted that the school based deworming programme is an effective and cost effective strategy to ensure that the diseases disrupting the educational growth of children are treated.
She explained that Evidence Action has over the years lent supporting hands to assist governments across the world in the organization of various programs stressing that the organization is currently targeting the deworming of over 1.3 million school children in Lagos. She however noted that the deworming exercise is not limited to children in school alone.
“We are an international organization in several countries. We have a track record of supporting governments across the world to set up programs like this. We are particularly honoured that we are able to extend this technical assistance to Lagos, ”she said.
She encouraged parents residing in the affected LGAs where the exercise is being held to ensure that their children and wards within the target age bracket receive deworming treatment noting that the treatment is free and effective.