17 million children infected by worms in Pakistan: survey
A deworming campaign targeting schoolchildren will begin in Karachi at the end of January. It is being carried out to root out intestinal infections caused by worms, known medically as soil-based helminthiasis.
The campaign will be conducted by the WHO in collaboration with Sindh’s health and education departments.
The head of the WHO Sindh, Dr Sara Salman, was on SAMAA TV’s programme Naya Din on Friday to talk about the upcoming campaign.
She revealed that 17 million children were infected by worms, according to a nationwide survey in 2016. This survey was the first of its kind and highlighted 40 districts where infection was most prevalent in children.
It was then that the need for a regular deworming campaign was felt, Dr Salman said. “It’s important to deworm people once a year. In some places the prevalence is 20 to 50% which means they need to be dewormed twice in the year.”
These include northern regions in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the south and Sindh infection prevalence is low but it’s 20% in Karachi, she said.
The Karachi campaign will target children in schools, madrassas and out-of-school children. Along with this there was a need to create awareness about improving personal hygiene and sanitation, Dr Salman said, without which the parasitic worms would not be eliminated from the soil.
Soil-based helminthiasis is transmitted by worms known as hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. All types are present in Pakistan which is one of the 10 countries with the highest disease burden in the world.
It causes stomach pain, diarrhoea, weakness and can even lead to iron-deficiency anaemia.
Latest estimates by the WHO indicate that more than 880 million children in the world are in need of treatment for these parasites.
Vulnerable populations include preschool infants, school-going children, women in the reproductive age group and people who work in close contact with the soil, such as farmers.