The Government of India held National Deworming Day 2016 on February 10, deworming 179 million children in 1.8 million preschools and schools. Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative is the technical assistance provider to the Government of India, and is also working closely with seven state governments to implement National Deworming Day.
To increase the number of children dewormed this year, we wanted to bring private schools into the fold of this government-led program that especially target poorer children. And we did: for the first time, 170,000 private schools dewormed their pupils across the country.
Earlier this year, India held the largest public health event conducted in one day: The country dewormed 179 million children in almost all states and Union territories, according to the government’s latest figure. Deworming took place in 810,000 government schools, 800,000 preschools (anganwadi centers) and, for the first time, in 170,000 private schools. School-based deworming leverages anganwadi workers and teachers to deliver safe, simple treatment for parasitic worms.
Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative is the principal technical assistance provider to the Government of India’s National Deworming Day and our team was instrumental in making it happen.
This week, the Cross River State Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) unit launched its inaugural statewide school-based deworming exercise that will treat against two neglected tropical diseases that are particularly common in children: schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH). The school-based deworming exercise will cover 11 of the 18 local government areas in Cross River for the first time, and is targeting 600,000 at-risk school-aged children in primary and junior secondary public and private schools.
The case for mass school-based deworming in endemic countries stands on two legs: First, the body of rigorous evidence that supports mass deworming as a cost-effective intervention. Second, mass treatment without first testing for infection is cheap, safe, and an efficient strategy for reaching lots of kids quickly. Claims in a recent paper by Calum Davey and colleagues and the Cochrane Review by members of the same research group that have been picked up in the press are based on flawed analysis, and could threaten an emerging public health success story.