By Michael Barnabe.
At least 4 million children across 14 counties have been targeted to benefit from the National School-Based Deworming Program jointly implemented by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health with technical assistance from Evidence Action.
This week’s exercise, that kicked off on September 14 and closes on Thursday September 16, targets children in 14 counties including Narok, Nyamira, Kisii, Migori, Busia, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale, and Taita Taveta Counties.
Acting Director of Medical Services and Head Directorate of Preventive and Promotive Health at the Ministry of Health Dr. Andrew Mulwa, says, vigorous research – mainly conducted in Kenya in the early 2000s – has shown that receiving deworming treatment can improve children’s school attendance, physical development, and cognition.
Further, a study showed that deworming can lead to a 25% reduction in school absenteeism” observed Dr. Mulwa.
Director of Primary Education Nerea Olick, said intestinal worms are a major public health problem in Kenya with at least 6 million children at risk of infection across the country.
According to Dr. Bashir Isaak, Head of the department of family health at the ministry of health, if left untreated, worm infection interfere with nutrient intake, and can lead to anaemia, malnourishment, and impaired mental and physical development.
This year, the National School-Based Deworming Program, saw 2.6 million children dewormed in March 2021 across seven counties in Western Kenya. The regions included Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Nandi, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bomet and Kericho Counties.
Six additional counties including Garissa, Kirinyaga, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni and Wajir are set to be targeted for schistosomiasis next year when drugs become available. This will be in addition to Migori, Busia, Siaya, Kisumu, Homabay, Tana River, Kilifi, Kwale and Taita Taveta Counties that will already have benefitted from the schistosomiasis deworming program.
Since its launch in 2009, the program has targeted to treat at least six million children aged 2-14 years in areas at risk of worm infection each year. The deworming treatment is administered in over 19,000 primary schools and ECD Centre by trained schoolteachers, reaching both enrolled and unenrolled children.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe had last month held a meeting with officials from the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT). During the meeting, the CS and the KNUT representatives deliberated on a wide array of issues including school health program that integrates nutrition and hygiene as captured in the Kenya School Health Policy.
This story was produced by Michael Barnabe at Mtaani Radio in partnership with Code for Africa, Kenya Community Media Network and the Catholic Media Council with support from the German Cooperation as a part of the Our County Our Responsibility project.