In the biggest health initiative of its kind, Delhi government will de-worm 40 lakh children in a single day on February 21.
One in six children has worm infestation, which causes childhood malnutrition, anaemia, retarded mental development, slowed physical growth and reduced academic performance.
More than 30 lakh school children from nursery to Class 12 in schools run by the Delhi government, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Cantonment Board schools, eight lakh pre-school children in anganwadi centres and two lakh school dropout adolescent girls will be given de-worming tablets.
The initiative is part of Delhi government’s Chacha Nehru Sehat Yojna, which focuses on providing free and comprehensive health services to school children (2-17 years) in the Capital.
“In a study, we found that the average prevalence of soil-transmitted worms is around 16% in children. The problem can affect the overall development of a child, so we decided to go for a mass de-worming exercise,” said AK Walia, Delhi health minister.
“It is the best way to immediately improve children’s quality of life. Delhi is the only state where the non-school going population is also being covered. The exercise is bigger than the pulse polio programme running in the state,” said Anshu Prakash, principal secretary (health), Delhi government.
Three departments of the Delhi government’s health and family welfare, education, and women and child development are involved in the project along with De-worm the World, an organisation that provides technical support in executing de-worming projects.
The medicines have been tested and procured and will be distributed a week before de-worming day to 4,000 schools and 10,527 anganwadi centres.
Nearly 15,000 people are being trained to administer de-worming medication— a chewable tablet.
As the medicine has to be given twice a year for maximum efficacy, the project will take place in two phases. The next phase of the exercise will happen six months later.
“We will depute our doctors in schools and anganwadi centres to deal with side effects, if any,” said Prakash.