Western Province, Kenya: School children here used to come to school with stomach aches, patchy skin, low energy and distended bellies. Many couldn’t concentrate on their lessons, and some fell asleep in class.
The cause of the children’s lethargy and malnutrition was worms, quite common in children who drink unsanitary water and walk to school in bare feet, on dirt roads and trails.
Today those same children look quite different. They are vibrant, alert, and eager to learn. They are receiving more energy and nutrition from their food.
In the bustling towns bordering Uganda, simple and effective de-worming medications provided by World Concern have transformed the lives of more than 300,000 children in 370 schools and in surrounding neighborhoods. With our partners in the region, these children receive lessons in basic health and hygiene to prevent reinfestation.
We want to one day see that every child in Kenya who needs de-worming medication receives it, and that this life-enhancing and simple intervention will be available throughout the continent. Children who are free of parasites are much better able to resist infection and disease, and they are much better learners.
“I feel strong, and I have much more energy in my body,” said one student proudly. Before he took the medicine, the parasites made it difficult for him to sleep at night, he said. “Now after I have my evening meal, I go right to sleep every time.”
Worms infect more than 30 percent of the world’s population, most of whom are poor children. Infections from roundworms and hookworms are rarely lethal, but untreated parasite infections are long-term and chronic, negatively affecting all aspects of a child’s health, cognitive development, learning and achievement, according to the World Health Organization.
“We had children falling asleep at their desks – even at 8 a.m.,” said John Nalugala, principal at Nambere Primary School, where 582 students have received twice-yearly treatments of the de-worming medicine Mebendazole. “Now they are alert and doing much better.”
"Their health was poor and their attendance was poor,” agreed teacher Lucas Simolo, who coordinates the de-worming medication and education program. “Many of them were getting sick from dirty water and unwashed food.”
Another side benefit of the de-worming medications is that they are easy to swallow and have virtually no side effects. That means that every child can receive the medicine, and if they are not infected, it won’t harm them. This is a cost effective way to treat entire communities, because no testing is required before hand.
The de-worming program in Busia and Teso districts has had an additional, and unexpected, benefit in these communities: higher school enrollments.
“When people hear about de-worming, there is an influx of students,” said Alukhu J. Wanalubisi, counselor and de-worming coordinator at Busidibu Primary School, where 758 students have undergone treatment. “We are inviting community members to come (for medicine) also, and the children have now told their family members and other children how to prevent worms, through hand-washing, for example.”
As a result, “People here are much more healthy. The de-worming project has not just affected this school, but the people all around,” Wanalubisi said.
World Concern’s de-worming program highlights the power of partnership to improve the health and well-being of the world’s poorest children. World Concern receives the medicine from the manufacturer at a discount, and we and our partners ensure their delivery around the world.