The Philippines’ deworming campaign this year, Oplan Goodbye Bulate, was incredibly successful. More than 11 million children were dewormed in the campaign, beginning July 29, 2015, with most areas of the country reaching at least 75% of the children enrolled in public schools, the WHO recommended target for mass drug administrations (MDAs) for soil-transmitted helminths (STH). The Department of Health has planned for the school-based deworming program to occur biannually, with deworming days every July and January.
The Philippines was heralded in the third progress report of the London Declaration, Country Leadership and Collaboration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. Along with Bangladesh, Brazil, Honduras, and other NTD-endemic countries, the Philippines has demonstrated laudable leadership in mobilizing domestic resources to support their own NTD programs. Of the entirety of the Philippines’ NTD program budget, an impressive 94% is domestic.
The leadership demonstrated by the Philippines is particularly exciting considering the NTD burden in the Western Pacific Region and worldwide. While NTDs exist in 122 countries, an overwhelming majority of the burden rests on a handful of countries, including the Philippines. Ten countries are home to roughly 70% of the global population that requires treatment for NTDs, including the Philippines, which ranks as having the eighth-highest burden globally.
Intestinal parasites, including soil-transmitted helminths, are a significant health burden in the Western Pacific Region. According to the WHO, 32 of 37 countries and areas in the region are affected. If Oplan Goodbye Bulate continues successfully, the Philippines could soon meet the WHO target, significantly reducing the NTD burden in the Western Pacific Region — and worldwide.
To learn more about how the Philippines accomplished this recent success, we spoke with Division Chief of the Infectious Disease Office, Dr. Leda Hernandez, about Oplan Goodbye Bulate.
Q: Congratulations on your successful deworming campaign – an effort that reached over 11 million school-aged children in one day. What do you think contributed to this impressive accomplishment?
The Philippines’ deworming campaign done by the Department of Education and Department of Health has been ongoing since 2006, using established guidelines and protocols. There is one major difference between previous campaigns and the July 2015 National School Deworming Day (NSDD). This year’s Oplan Goodbye Bulate campaign was conducted in one day simultaneously all over the country. Then, we have one week of “mopping up,” which means that we make sure to treat children who were absent on the campaign day.
Q: What did the departments observe about this year’s deworming campaign, compared to previous ones?
The final report was issued 30 days after the one day launch, held on July 29, 2015. Approximately three months of effort was concentrated on one day, making the NSDD more efficient and practical. Another difference was that this was teacher administered and health worker supervised. There are at least three important lessons that we learned from this experience.
First, a lot of resources (time, money and manpower) can be saved by strategically integrating and harmonizing the implementation period. Secondly, timeliness of reporting can be significantly improved to promptly elicit available evidence-based data for decision making. And thirdly, the Integrated Helminth Control Program can now focus on integration of complimentary interventions such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and social and behavior change communication (SBCC), because of the time and financial savings.
Q: You created short videos and flyers about Oplan Goodbye Bulate to spread the word about the campaign. Why were these communication materials important to encourage participation? Were there other materials and outreach efforts that helped raise awareness of NTD treatment?
Advocacy and a lot of lobbying were vital to influencing local government unit participation. The Department of Interior and Local Government offered its people to provide manpower (health workers) to supervise the mass drug administration especially in geographically disadvantaged and isolated areas. Team work and collaboration by the three government agencies, support from partners, plus active community participation made a lot of difference and became our winning formula for good public service delivery.
However, as you know, misinformation can have damaging effects. It made us realize how fast information can spread like wildfire and that we should be prepared for that. However, it also made us realize that working together and solving issues early on was one of the strengths of this organization in times of crisis.
Q: Can you describe a particular community that has seen remarkable progress?
All regions were competitive and showed enthusiasm to beat their own previous records. There was a spirit of healthy competition and a desire to perform better, which is a good sign for everybody. All regions are now looking forward to the next round where they can apply good practices that they learned from one another during our consultative meeting last October.
Last week, I was very excited to see that Paraguay’s Ministries of Health and Education, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) aimed to treat more than 1.4 million school children, as well as homeless and indigenous populations, for intestinal worms during a four-day deworming campaign. This year’s campaign marks a significant scale-up from last year’s effort which reached 700,000 school children in comparison.
In order to double the outreach from previous campaigns, they spread the word in a number of ways, including through social media. Thanks to visual informational materials, and even the creation of a friendly mascot, children across the country were motivated to take deworming medicine.
Intestinal worm infections disproportionately affect the poor in Paraguay. More than 50 percent of Paraguayan households lack access to clean water and sanitation, exacerbating the spread of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) like intestinal worms.
These infections rob children of nutrients and energy and can lead to anemia and malnutrition, preventing them from going to school and undermining their potential to learn and succeed. But thanks to Paraguay’s expanded efforts to treat and control intestinal worms, more and more children will benefit from improved health. As girls grow up free of worms, well-nourished and better educated, they will also become better prepared for a healthy pregnancy and a successful delivery of healthy babies.
Last week’s campaign, launched in the City of San Lorenzo on August 4th, promoted the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation in addition to distributing deworming medicine. Regular hand washing, increased use of toilets and latrines and washing fruits and vegetables are essential to help prevent the spread and reinfection of intestinal worms.
The government of Paraguay, PAHO, municipal governments, school teachers, and parents all played a role during the campaign and helped promote hygiene practices by sharing materials and conducting trainings. To ensure that rural populations also received medicines and educational materials, national health teams worked closely with local health departments as well. We congratulate the leadership of the Ministries of Health and Education for this innovative and collaborative work.
Paraguay’s 2014 deworming campaign demonstrates the country’s commitment to controlling and eliminating NTDs. However, Paraguay can do more to lessen the unnecessary suffering caused by NTDs.
Efforts need to be made to map the prevalence of intestinal parasites, track and report existing deworming efforts, and focus on establishing programmatic collaborations with neighboring countries Bolivia and Argentina to implement NTD efforts in the cross-national Chaco Region where many communities of indigenous people are living in extremely poor conditions. With a strong commitment to maintain these activities, Paraguay’s children will benefit from a healthier and more prosperous country.
By Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, NTD Special Envoy
This August, the END7 campaign asked for your help in treating more than 1 million school children in Honduras for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – and I’m a happy to share that the joint effort was a success! Your donations helped ensure that 1,051,659 children in 11,576 public schools remain free from harmful parasitic worms for an entire year. On behalf of these children, their families and communities, I stand with END7 in saying thank you – ¡Muchas gracias!
You helped support Honduras’ national deworming campaign for school-aged children, which spanned throughout 18 states and 298 municipalities within the country. A strong collaboration led by the Ministry of Health of Honduras, with support from the Ministry of Education, the Healthy Schools Program, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), Operation Blessing, MAMA Project and the END7 Campaign drove the campaign forward.
The campaign reached 88.6% of the children targeted for treatment (524,472 girls and 528,736 boys). And this effort was about more than just pill distribution. The Ministry of Health equipped health workers, volunteers, school personnel and partners with the knowledge, tools and training they need to implement additional campaigns in the years to come – ensuring that children are continually protected from intestinal worms which sap their energy, keep them with anemia and malnutrition and impair their capacity to grow and learn, thus perpetuating a life in poverty.
Embodying the “train the trainer approach,” health personnel at the regional level trained elementary school teachers in 298 districts, who in turn, trained parents on measures to prevent the transmission of soil-transmitted helminths (STHs, or intestinal parasites), amplifying the protection of children throughout the country.
Because NTDs are spread by unsafe water sources and inadequate hygiene and sanitation, the deworming campaign promoted hygiene education among children by demonstrating proper hand washing techniques as a way to prevent future infections. And because some schools in the poorest areas didn’t have clean water, four water filters were installed in the municipalities of Marcovia and El Triunfo in Choluteca states, where 100,461 people will benefit from the equipment. The water filters will ensure the water drank by these school children is clean and free from parasitic worms.
Honduras is the first country in the Latin American and Caribbean region to launch a national plan addressing these diseases. Since the launch of the plan in 2012, in addition to scaling up its national deworming campaign, the Honduras Ministry of Health and its partners have developed eight department level operational plans and trained personnel from each department on NTD control-related activities.
This year, you helped END7 create a better future for more than a million school children in Honduras. But they’re not stopping there. With continued support from people like you, END7 is working to make sure these children continue to receive treatment year after year. Get involved in the movement by visiting www.end7.org. Together we can see the end.
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By: William Lin, Director of Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson Reprinted from InterActions Aid Buzz
Last month in Geneva, leaders from government, business and non-governmental organizations met to continue the development of the strategy to coordinate efforts to combat one of the most prevalent – yet preventable – infectious conditions in the world. Intestinal worms, also known as soil transmitted helminthes or STH, affect nearly one in four people on the planet, and until recently, bringing the condition under control seemed like a daunting task. However, with the recent commitment of medicines from Johnson & Johnson and GSK, reaching the 600 million school-age children that are at risk suddenly became an attainable goal.