UN health agency recommends large-scale deworming to improve children’s health
29 September 2017 – The suffering of those infected with parasitic intestinal can be drastically reduced with periodic
deworming programmes with a single-tablet treatment, according to new guidelines approved by the United Nations health
“There is now global evidence-based consensus
that periodic, large-scale deworming is the best way to reduce the suffering caused by intestinal worms,” said Dirk
Engels, Director of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Department at the World Health Organization (WHO
), which also noted that such programmes can also protect the 1.5 billion people currently estimated to be at risk.
WHO aims to eliminate the harm caused by worm infections in children by 2020 by regularly treating at least 75 per cent
of the estimated 873 million children in areas where prevalence is high. In 2016, WHO Member States treated 63 per cent
of children requiring treatment.
“Now that the world has agreed standards for deworming at-risk populations, we are in a better position to reach this
target,” Antonio Montresor, who heads WHO’s global deworming programme.
have been approved by WHO’s Guidelines Review Committee.
Four main species of intestinal worms, also known as soil-transmitted helminths
, affect almost a quarter of the world’s poorest and mostly marginalized people. The worms disrupt people’s ability to
absorb nutrients and impede the growth and physical development of millions of children.
Large-scale deworming programmes use medicines donated by pharmaceutical companies. These medicines are shipped to
countries requesting them, and distributed during mass treatment campaigns.
“Providing medicines to populations at risk reduces the intensity of intestinal helminth infections,” said Francesco
Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, adding however that improving basic
hygiene, sanitation, health education and providing access to safe drinking-water are also keys to resolving the health
and nutritional problems caused by intestinal worms.
Many countries combine deworming activities for pre-school children with other health campaigns, such as vaccination,
child health and vitamin supplementation d