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Deworm the World - Bihar, India
Deworm the World is on a mission to improve the health and education of school-age children across the globe by supporting governments and development partners to expand school-based deworming programs. Watch how here:
More than half of all children in the large state of Bihar in India suffer from parasitic worms, which can make them sick, lethargic and less able to concentrate in school. While deworming tablets are available in some areas, many families lack the resources to purchase them or reach health facilities. Thus many worm-infected children simply endure their condition, struggle to focus in school and absorb fewer nutrients from their meals.
This was the unfortunate situation until 2011 – the year the Bihar Departments of Health and Education, in collaboration with Deworm the World, launched a mass school-based deworming campaign. Through this campaign all school-age children, including those enrolled and out of school, were offered deworming tablets. The campaign treated an astounding 17 million children, making it the largest ever school- based deworming program globally.
17 million children is greater than the total population of several countries combined (for example, New Zealand, Nicaragua and Slovakia), and they were reached in one of the poorest regions of the world. The Bihar government successfully dewormed 17 million children through a strong partnership between the education and health sectors, and with technical assistance provided by Deworm the World. This continued partnership provided a second round of treatment to school-age children in September 2012, ensuring that each child treated has a better chance at a healthier year, increased days in school, and a more prosperous future.
The following is the story of just one such child. There are millions of other similar tales.
“I want to be like A.P. J. Abdul Kalam!” (scientist and former President of India), Saif Ali excitedly reported when asked about his dreams. It is a big dream, but he said it with the optimism and determination of youth, thinking nothing of the obstacles a poor rural child might face and only of the opportunities a diligent student could achieve.
Saif Ali is an 11 year-old student from Phulwari Sharif Middle School in Bihar. His father, Mohammad Bansi, earns 400 rupees a day (approximately £5), which must stretch to feed, clothe, educate and provide medical care for a large family of ten. The conditions they live in can make it difficult for the family to stay healthy. The cramped 3 bedroom house lacks a private toilet and the family resorts to using an overburdened and often filthy community toilet, or even simply a nearby highway where they can go to escape the toilet’s stench.
As a young boy Saif was keen to study. He attended a government school where he took to his education with dedication and was consistently at the top of his class. However, a year ago he began feeling weak and complained to his parents of a constant stomach ache. They took him to a local doctor who prescribed some medication to address the pain, but not the underlying cause. Saif’s ache continued; he lost his appetite, ate little and began to feel even weaker. He struggled to do his daily chores and to study, and gradually his grades slipped. He fell behind the other children in his class, a huge blow to his self-esteem and pride.
Then one day, the school authority delivered a solution for Saif’s troubles. His teacher told the class that all children in his school would be given Albendazole tablets as there was a possibility they had worm infections. The medication was provided to the children by the State Government Program with the assistance of Deworm the World. Saif was provided with a small tablet by a trained teacher who ensured that the pill was swallowed and also recorded basic information about him so that the campaign could reliably monitor progress. Health care workers were available in the event of a rare side effect and to discuss issues with any concerned parents or children.
After taking the drug Saif said,
“The tablet tasted sweet when I took it in my mouth. The very next day my stool passed very easily and I felt light inside. This made my day; I felt hungry and ate satisfactorily. I rediscovered my original stamina and energy.”
After being dewormed, school took on a renewed importance in Saif’s life as success became easier to achieve. The whole family noticed a marked difference. Saif explained,
“Now my concentration level is improving and I am able to put my best efforts in studies. My parents are also happy when they noticed my improvement. I feel good and think that one day I’ll be the man of my dreams.”
And after the school-based deworming campaign millions of children just like Saif will have a better shot at becoming the man or woman of their dreams.
Photo of Saif courtesy of Deworm the World. Others courtesy of Esther Havens
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