Earlier this year, India held the largest public health event ever 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 this massive event happen. In the months leading up to deworming, we worked with technical staff in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to develop operational guidelines, design informational materials, and draft scripts for radio and TV announcements that were used all over the country. We also worked directly with seven individual states to boost and fine-tune implementation quality of their respective school-based deworming efforts.
During National Deworming Day, in these states we tracked deliveries of drugs and manuals from the capital cities all the way to the block and village levels. Our teams joined government officials in monitoring and supervising drug administration at randomly sampled schools, and we carefully analyzed treatment reports to verify data quality.
National Deworming Day is considered a great success, having scaled to national coverage following the program’s 2015 launch. Health Minister J.P. Nadda praised the national program in his speech to parliament in May and other high-level officials have expressed their satisfaction and gratitude for Evidence Action’s work in a number of speeches and at various events. National Deworming Day was extensively featured in local, national, and international media.
What happened on National Deworming Day in India?
On February 10, children in 1.78 million schools and anganwadis (preschools) lined up to receive a single albendazole tablet from their teachers, with community mobilization and oversight from the health system, including community health volunteers (ASHAs). This extremely simple intervention–school-based mass deworming–is implemented in countries with parasitic worms above a certain prevalence worldwide, such as in Kenya, Ethiopia, Honduras and the Philippines.
Deworming 179 million children in one day was preceded by months of hard work by key government officials at all levels and our staff of 75 in India, who ensured that teachers and health workers were trained and critical inputs, including drugs and community awareness materials, were available at the last mile for timely delivery.
What’s Next for India?
Recently completed worm prevalence surveys conducted by the National Center for Disease Control and Evidence Action revealed that 26 Indian states have such high worm prevalence to warrant twice annual treatment. The Government of India has decided to double up on the successes achieved during this year’s National Deworming Day with our support.
The next deworming day will take place in Indian schools and anganwadis on August 10. Alongside the country’s very dedicated health and education officials, our team is once again making preparations to #DewormIndia!