- Written by Queen Munguti for KenyaKidz
Intestinal worms, which include hookworms, tapeworms and roundworms, are the most common infections worldwide according to WHO. They also a leading cause of school absenteeism in Kenya.
In Kenya, its incidences as of last year had increased by 42 per cent from 326,297 to 762,237 according to the economic survey report by the Kenya National Bureau Statistics. School-age children typically have the highest intensity of worm infestations of any age group and people living in rural areas.
It is due to this that the Ministry of Health in 2009 began the National School-Based Deworming Programme which was aimed to treat over five million school-age children in Kenya who are at risk of intestinal parasitic worms, including soil-transmitted helminthes (STH) and schistosomes.
As of 2014, 3.6 million children in the country had been treated for the intestinal worms.Intrestingly, the Ministry of Health also found out that by deworming children school absenteeism was reduced by 25 per cent and increased literacy (children persistently infected with worms are 13 per cent less likely to be literate when they are adults).
It was also found to improve cognition in untreated younger siblings that is equivalent to half a year of schooling, due to spillover effects, plus, adults who are dewormed as children earn wages over 20 per cent higher than their untreated counterparts.
The intestinal worms live in humans and animal intestines and feed on food that passes through their hosts’ digestive tracts. The worms enter the host body as eggs are live worms in undercooked meat, contaminated food or water, or through the skin and causes digestive problems and malnutrition.
They are more prevalent in areas such as Migori, Kisii,Kisumu, Nyamira, Homabay and the Coast Region affecting both children and adults.
Its syptoms include abdominal pain,diarrhea containing blood and mucus, nausea, bloating,rash or itching around the rectum or vulva and exhausation.
In government pharmaceuticals, the drugs are free for children but for adults they have to buy them although they are subsidized and can cost as little as Sh50.British pharmaceutical company, GSK, donates the drugs called Albendazole to the Ministry of Health for treatment of children. This year during the mass deworming of school-age children in February, drugs worth one billion shillings were distributed to treat against intestinal worms and bilharzia; more than eight million tablets for intestinal worms and three million for bilharzias.
Other than the mass deworming program by Ministry of Health conducted annually in May, public hosipitals around the also country, twice a year conduct deworming programs for children.