New Delhi: An estimated 34 crore children will be covered under ministry of health’s National Deworming Programme on Friday, aimed at reducing worm infestation that hampers the growth of schoolgoers.
Infections due to Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) or worms cause morbidity by adversely affecting nutritional status; impairing cognitive processes and causing complications that may require surgical intervention.
It also affects a child’s school performance and is a leading cause of absenteeism. The situation of undernutrition and anemia, which is linked to STH, ranges from 40% to 70% in different population groups across the country.
India launched the programme in 2015, making it one of the largest single-day public health initiatives in India.
Apart from government school students, this year the ministry also will cover students of private schools across the country.
“We have suggested to states that they should get in touch with private school associations to implement the programme in their schools,” said Vandana Gurnani, joint secretary, health ministry.
Union health secretary, CK Mishra, said, “Last year, an issue had been raised that the government is deworming children only in government schools and private schools were left out. This year, we have included private schools that will cover additional eight crore children. Since this is the first year, we may not have 100% coverage in private schools.”
India has the highest burden of worm infections in the world, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating in 2014 that over 22 crore Indian children aged between 1 and 14 years are at risk.
Deworming with the safe and beneficial Albendazole 400 mg tablet is an effective solution to controlling worm infections.
To know the exact worm load, health ministry started a mapping exercise in all states. National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was appointed as a nodal agency to conduct nationwide STH mapping. The data shows varied prevalence range from 85% in Tamil Nadu to 12.5 % in Madhya Pradesh during 2015.
“Depending on the prevalence, our experts will take a decision whether to make it an annual or biannual exercise,” said Mishra.
Details of STH prevalence in India
*>50% (high prevalence): 14 states
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, J&K, Lakhsadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, UP and Uttarakhand
* 20% - 50 % (moderate prevalence): 19 states
A&N , Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, West Bengal and Tripura
*<20% (low prevalence): 2 states
Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan