By Sushma Ramachandran

It was a colorful launch yet again for the second annual mass school-based deworming in Delhi schools by the former Health Minister of the Government of Delhi, Dr. A.K. Walia, and senior government officials. The event was enlivened by the presence of many schoolchildren, a magician, dancers and traditional Sanskrit chanting. The first launch in February 2012 had been a festive affair and the Delhi government clearly wanted to continue a joyous approach to this key health intervention.

The formal launch was held on September 24, while deworming days for Delhi government and municipal schools as well as anganwadis (pre-schools) were October 3rd and 5th. The hall was festooned with pink and blue balloons and a floral gateway greeted the attendees many of whom were school children.

A magician excited the children before the formal launch with countless tricks ending always with the message that “prevention is better than cure.” Several young girls performed folk dances, while the event began with traditional Sanskrit verses being chanted.

Dr. Walia, whose unstinted support to the deworming initiative has been critical to its success, told the gathering that when he was a practicing doctor he would often prescribe deworming medicine to deal with stomach ailments. And it was always, he noted, successful in curing the patients.

He also released a report detailing the results of the first mass school-based deworming carried out in February 2012. This was prepared by Deworm the World Initiative led by Evidence Action which is implemented in India by the Action Foundation for Social Services.

One round is carried out every year, where all government, municipal and cantonment schools and aganwadis (pre-schools) provide deworming medication to their students. The Deworm the World Initiative works with governments over a series of annual deworming rounds (typically 3-5) to ensure the program is maintained over the long term. Several consecutive years of deworming are needed to significantly reduce worm prevalence in communities.

The first round of deworming in Delhi covered 2.7 million children while the second round in 2013 aimed to cover 3.6 million children. Ayan Chatterjee, Operations Director of the Deworm the World Initiative in India spoke on the occasion, commending the role of the Delhi government in carrying forward this crucial health initiative.

A prevalence survey carried out by the Delhi government in collaboration with the Deworm the World Initiative has shown that the worm burden of school children was 16% with a maximum of 83.3% in one slum. The average prevalence for pre-school children was 17%.

The deworming program of the Delhi government was launched last year under the Chacha Nehru SehatYojana aimed at providing free and comprehensive health services to all school age children in the capital.

In last year’s program, the Deworm the World Initiative facilitated a drug donation of 4 million deworming tablets through the World Health Organization with financial support from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. For this round, the Initiative has facilitated a drug donation of 3.7 million albendazole tablets. Another 1.5 million drugs in syrup form have been procured by the Delhi government for the pre-school age group.

As part of a two-tier training cascade, over 1000 master trainers from schools and Anganwadis were trained at the state level who, in turn, have trained 11000 Anganwadi workers and 4000 school teachers.

Stay tuned to hear about our next deworming round in Bihar this January.

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