IMA to also observe as National Deworming Day
Dr SS Agarwal, Dr KK Aggarwal
National Deworming Day is a part of the initiative by the Govt. of India to reduce the burden of soil-transmitted parasitic infections in the country. Parasitic infections in children lead to anemia, malnourishment and hamper their mental and physical development.
Recent US studies investigating the impact of worm infections on literacy rates have shown that literacy levels are lowered by 13%, and there is a downward impact on earnings of 43% later in life. Research from Western Kenya has shown that school-based mass deworming programs reduced absenteeism by 25%.
‘Children in India,’ a 2012 report by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, Govt. of India, states that 19.8% of children under the age of five years are wasted, and 48% of them being malnourished, which showed malnourishment across half of the child population in the country.
On February 10, 2015, National Deworming Day was observed in 11 states and Union Territories including Haryana, Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli. This year it will cover the whole country. Last year, more than 100 million children at risk of parasitic worms were covered in the program. These children were given chewable Albendazole tablets over 3 days. The medicine was given to children up to the age of 5 years at Anganwadi centers, while children aged between 6 to 19 years were provided medication at all government schools.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is pitching in to help the government with the implementation of this program, and requests all its 2.5-lakh members to spread the message. This would mean individual healthcare facilities doing their bit to stem the worm infestation. Not only children in Govt. schools, but those in private schools should also be covered in the program.
Under this initiative, children aged 1 – 2 years will be given half tablet of albendazole 400 mg, while those aged 2-19 years, will be given the full tablet of albendazole 400 mg.
Given that Albendazole is an inexpensive drug, total coverage without subsidy is a welcome step to curbing worm infections.
An increasingly obsolete affliction in developed settings, India must work tirelessly to control the spread of parasitic worms in vulnerable youth.