The government treated more than 5.9 million children in over 16,000 schools across 27 counties in the National School Based Deworming programme (NSBD) last year.
The children aged 2 to 14 years were treated for two types of parasitic worm infections which are among 10 globally recognized neglected tropical diseases.
Speaking Tuesday during the release of the 2017 results, Principal Secretary Ministry of Health Eng. Peter Tum said the programme had reached 80 percent of at risk children, surpassing the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended target of 75 percent.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Director Medical Services Dr. Jackson Kioko, the PS said school going children make up to 42 percent of the country’s population with 6 million children being at risk of worm infection.
Eng. Tum said the programme that had run since 2009 has been successful having reached 3.6 million in the year and after that two line ministries of health and education came together through a partnership agreement that saw the success in the first five years 2012 – 2017.
“So far the programme has treated 34.53 million children since it started in 2009 and the success of the last five years has resulted in the two lead ministries and evidence action signing another MOU covering 2017 to 2020 to ensure continuity for the next five years”, he said.
Eng. Tum however said even as they move forward with the next phase, they need to address the re-infection rates that have remained high, dampening their efforts to eliminate common worms and bilharzia in the country.
“We will need targeted, pro –active and integrated interventions to break the transmission of intestinal parasitic worms, continue with mass administration of deworming medicines and also work towards eliminating open defecation to stop entry of parasite eggs in the environment,” Eng. Tum said
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said about 7.8 million school-age children are at risk of infection with intestinal parasitic worms, including common worms and Bilharzia and this leads to poor attendance and concentration in school and consequently increasing school drop outs.
Kipsang whose speech was read by Director Primary Education Mr. Abdi Habat added the Ministry of Education through the School Health, Nutrition and Meals Unit implements various initiatives in schools aimed at promoting good health, hygiene and nutrition among school age children.
“Because of this we together with partners have been undertaking mass administration of common worms and bilharzia control drugs to children between 2 and 14 years, leveraging on our schools’ infrastructure,” the PS said.
Kipsang noted that studies have shown that deworming children helps reduce school absenteeism by about 25 percent and that adult who were dewormed as children earn wages about 20 percent higher than their counterparts.
He added there is need to strengthen complimentary efforts to ensure children are not re-infected with the common worms and bilharzia after treatment at school.
“Under the Comprehensive School Health Programme we should improve and strengthen water and sanitation facilities in schools, provide health education on different health issues and provide periodic health check-ups as this will break the transmission f common worms and bilharzia in the country.
The PS confirmed that the Ministry of Education is working closely with Ministry of Health in looking into the issues of sustainability of the programme by identifying the gaps and challenges in the current programme design, and developing ways of addressing them.
The release of year five of National School Based Deworming Programme booklet sums that 6 million children representing 85 percent of all school age children living in endemic areas were dewormed
WHO recommends mass deworming as the clinical standards of care where worm prevalence exceeds 20 percent, even as studies exploring the long term impacts of deworming found out that treatment results in higher future earnings with boys who receive treatment growing up to work 3.4 hours more and in generally higher wage jobs.