A Call to Action: Deworming Needs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Child infected with a STH.

Washington, D.C. – A new report released today by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, highlights theimpact that a small group of neglected diseases are having on children in the Americas and presents concrete policy recommendations that can lead to significant progress in achieving several Millennium Development Goals in the Americas by 2015.

Entitled A Call to Action: Addressing Soil-transmitted Helminths in Latin America and the Caribbean, the report was developed in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization and the Inter-American Development Bank. The findings shed light on the health and economic toll imposed on at-risk populations by three types of parasitic intestinal worms, known collectively as soil-transmitted helminths (STH).

At least 46 million children in the Americas, or nearly 20% in the region, are at risk of becoming infected by these parasites. Infection often leads to chronic malnutrition, impairment of physical and cognitive development, and traps vulnerable populations in a cycle of poverty.

The good news is that highly cost-effective, proven interventions exist to treat intestinal parasites and many governments in the Latin American and Caribbean region already are conducting deworming campaigns. To address program gaps, deworming interventions can be easily integrated into various existing programs that many countries and their partners are already implementing in health, nutrition, immunization, education, water and sanitation, and income support.

The report outlines key recommendations for treatment against intestinal parasites that governments and key stakeholders of the Americas can include in their portfolios of activities as they seek to develop future programs and partnerships.

These recommendations are broken down into four areas:

1. Developing National Deworming Policies and Plans of Action;

2. Bundling Mass Treatment against Worms with Other Health Care Delivery Systems;

3. Leveraging National Social Welfare Campaigns, the Private Sector, Government Benefit Programs, and Community Mobilizations; and,

4. Mobilizing Political and Social Leadership.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Controlling and eliminating NTDs in Latin America and the Caribbean is achievable. Deworming treatment is cheap, safe, and effective. It can be easily integrated into existing health interventions in a sustainable way for little additional cost.
  • Children are most often infected between the first and third year of their lives. The parasites undermine the cognitive development of young children: they diminish the ability to learn,increase memory loss and lower IQ levels. By treating these diseases once or twice a year, countries in the Americas could begin to:
  • rid millions of children from the burden of these diseases;
  • significantly improve their quality of life; and,
  • increase their potential and future socioeconomic development through better educational performance.

For media comments or additional information on the report, please contact: Anjana Padmanabhan, 202-621-1688, Anjana.padmanabhan@sabin.org

The full Latin America and Caribbean report on soil-transmitted Helminths can be found on the Global Network website, at the bottom of the linked announcement.

About Anjana Padmanabhan

Anjana Padmanabhan is a communications officer and manages all the social media accounts for the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases including the "End the Neglect" blog.

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