Last week, the community of global stakeholders combatting the scourge of Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH), the major category of intestinal worms that we focus on, came together to discuss groundbreaking investments and chart a path forward in the fight against STH. In a series of events hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France, the community agreed to work collaboratively toward the collective goal of scaling treatment of STH globally.
Currently treatment that costs less than $US 0.50 per child reaches less than a third of the children that need it globally. Consequently, hundreds of millions of children without treatment suffer from malnourishment, increased levels of anemia, stunted growth and diminished cognitive development. Two major wins for the fight against parasitic worms occurred over the course of the week that are likely to dramatically accelerate scaling treatment to millions of children:
1. Global donors, spearheaded by CIFF and BMGF, announced over $120M in new funding commitments to tackle STH in a panel discussion that included Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization and BMGF Co-Chair Bill Gates. A global partners plan for STH was also launched by private donors, multilaterals, and cross-sector collaborators, who collectively committed to scale deworming efforts, catalyze country demand for treatment, and develop new tools and strategies for interrupting transmission.
2. The Kenya National School-Based Deworming Program (NSBDP) was featured as a flagship model of successful STH treatment in both a keynote speech by the Honorable Cabinet Secretary for Health of Kenya, Mr. James Macharia, and a panel event that included representatives of the Kenya program and our Executive Director, Dr. Alix Zwane. The panel highlighted the Kenya program’s efficient implementation approach, successful treatment coverage and significant impact on worm prevalence and educational attainment.
Cabinet Secretary Macharia highlighted successes of the Kenya program as the first government-led, national scaled program to be implemented systematically every year and called upon like-minded governments to follow Kenya’s lead in combatting STH. “In Kenya, the problem of soil-transmitted helminthes is neglected no more,” he declared, “the Kenya National School Based Deworming Program is a shining example of the power of partnership – across ministries, the public and private sector, the national and international community – working together to build a better future for our children.”
Jamie Cooper-Hohn, Chair of CIFF, cited the success of the NSBDP as a catalyst for the foundation’s new investment. “Following the success of our partnership with the Government of Kenya in reducing intestinal worm infestations in children from 35% to 10% in one year, CIFF is now committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to implement large-scale systematic approaches to deworming in a number of countries, with the hope that ultimately we can break the transmission of worms and achieve the vision of: every child, everywhere, free from worms forever.”
We are excited to see the international community and funders rallying around scaling up treatment of STH, and are proud to see our Kenya program upheld as an example of a successful, government-led program that can be model for other countries to improve the quality of life for millions of children.