While India attempts the world’s largest deworming programme on Wednesday, covering 27 crore children, several parents are making frantic calls to child specialists to know whether the medicine given is safe.
Doctors, however, urged parents to not fret and let the children have the anti-worm medicine- Albendazole. The medicine kills round, hook or tape worms that may be inside the intestine of the child.
“I got several calls today where parents wanted to know if it was safe for the child to take the medicine; I want to tell all parents that the medicine is absolutely safe and has been used since ages for deworming,” said Dr Anupam Sibal, senior paediatrician, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.
Appreciating government’s initiative to deal with the problem of malnourishment among children in the country, Dr Sibal, said, “It is a huge problem; I often see children with symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea and flatulence. This initiative should work positively. ”
All school-going and preschool (anganwadi) children, between the age group of 1 year and 19 years, will be given a 400 mg tablet to bring down the number of malnourished children in the country.
Parasitic worms, or soil-transmitted helminths (STH), are among the most common infections worldwide. These worms interfere with nutrient uptake, and can contribute to anaemia, malnourishment, and impaired mental and physical development.
According to the 2012 report ‘Children in India’, published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, 48% of children under the age of 5 years are stunted and 19.8% are wasted, indicating that half of the country’s children are malnourished.
“The initiative aims to create mass awareness about the most effective and low-cost STH treatment. Along with Albendazole tablets, behaviour change practices in terms of cleanliness, hygiene, use of toilets, wearing shoes, washing hands etc. is also important to reduce incidents of re-infection,” said Union health minister JP Nadda.
The health ministry first launched National Deworming Day(NDD) in 2015, which was implemented in 11 States/UTs across all government and government-aided schools and Anganwadi centres, targeting children aged 1 to 19 years.
The initiative was implemented in 277 districts and 9.49 lakh frontline workers were trained for NDD 2015. Against a target of 10.31 crore children, a total of 8.98 crore children received deworming tablet through 4.70 lakh schools and 3.67 lakh Anganwadi centres with 85% coverage.
This year, India aims to cover all states and union territories. Nadda will flag off the programme at a school in the state of Telangana.