According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 873 million children are at risk of soil-transmitted helminths (STH), including roundworm, hookworm and whipworm. In children, STH infections can lead to malnutrition, anemia and stunting. In both adults and children, they can cause fatigue, intense abdominal pain and chronic diarrhea. In severe cases they can even cause bowel obstruction, rectal prolapse and appendicitis.
To improve health and development in infected communities and reduce the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), WHO aims to control STH and schistosomiasis by 2020. Meeting this goal requires regularly deworming at minimum 75 percent of the preschool-age and school-age children who are at risk of STH or schistosomiasis. To ensure such an ambitious global goal is met, it is paramount that ministries of health, WHO and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) coordinate and share data.
WHO operates the Preventive Chemotherapy and Transmission Control (PCT) Databank, which tracks the number of children given PCT for STH, schistosomiasis and three other NTDs. The databank is populated largely by information reported by ministries of health and helps policymakers and implementers understand where deworming programs are active and where more interventions are needed to meet the WHO target of controlling STH and schistosomiasis by 2020.
However, gaps in the PCT Databank have become apparent. The 2013 STH preschool treatment data was recently revised when supplementary data was submitted by UNICEF. This data caused a 104 percent increase in the recorded number of preschool-age children treated for STH. Clearly, better coordination is needed to ensure the global community meets 2020 goals.
To facilitate better coordination among WHO, ministries of health and NGOs, the Children Without Worms (CWW).
After the data are compiled, WHO will merge the CWW database with national program data provided by ministries of health to the PCT Databank. This effort will make deworming dollars go even further by strengthening program monitoring and leading to an efficient use of resources. Ultimately, it will be an important step in controlling STH and schistosomiasis.
By Kerry Gallo, Children Without Worms
Ned Breslin’s recent The London Declaration to control or eliminate 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTD or NTDs) brought up an important point: the NTD and WASH sectors need to leverage the many opportunities for collaboration that exist. Successful collaboration will be critical in making a big difference in controlling or eliminating NTDs.
Johnson & Johnson have been focused on soil-transmitted helminthes (STH), an NTD also referred to as intestinal worms. Nearly 600 million children around the world are at risk of STH, which leads to malnutrition, stunting and other irreversible damage which impedes long-term health and earning potential.
We have long understood that medicines are part of the solution — after all, drugs treat infection and once administered to an infected child, the benefits are almost immediate. But to keep children and families healthy for the long run, preventing infections from happening in the first place is vital. Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene are key to making that happen and have therefore been central to our approach.
We have been proud and privileged to work through WASH partners in a few of our program countries, particularly Cambodia and Cameroon. In Cambodia, we have worked through the Ministries of Health and Education to conduct deworming days and
A recent literature review and meta-analysis on the impact of water and sanitation on STH control performed by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute shows the benefits of this integrated approach. The study found that “the availability and use of sanitation facilities were associated with a reduction in the prevalence of infection with soil-transmitted helminthes [odds ratio of 0.51]”.
The London Declaration
I am reminded of a proverb used frequently in global health and development: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. This nugget of ancient wisdom remains true today. By working together to broaden an integrated approach to addressing NTDs, the WASH and NTD sector will be able to achieve so much more.