PALO, Leyte- It’s all systems go for the Department of Health (DOH) regional office here to kill the parasites living and breeding inside the intestines of 700,097 school children in Eastern Visayas on Jan. 27. DOH Regional Director Minerva Molon said with all the coordination meetings for health workers and education officials ahead of school-based mass deworming, they are optimistic to cover about 95 percent of the target learners’ population. “We need the cooperation of teachers, local government units and parents to carry out this campaign. The soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) can cause poor physical growth, poor intellectual development in children and can result to anemia and malnutrition not only in children but also among women of child bearing age,” Molon said. Of the 700,097 kindergarten to Grade 6 learners targeted for free deworming, 29,614 are in Biliran; 80,157 in Eastern Samar; 279,791 in Leyte; 112,166 in Northern Samar; 138,077 in Samar; and 60,292 in Southern Leyte.

During the July 29, 2015 school-based mass deworming, 665,455 school children have benefitted, representing 95.05 percent of the target. The DOH has been informing teachers and parents on the normal symptoms after taking deworming drugs such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and dizziness. Only 14 children manifested these symptoms during the deworming campaign last year. “January is an ideal month to do deworming because school attendance is high. We will conduct this on a Wednesday since both health workers and teachers are around to observe the symptoms within 24 hours after mass administration,” Molon added. Schoool-based deworming is the focus on Jan. 27, but the health department will also integrate existing health campaigns on mass drug administration for Garantisadong Pambata, STH, filariasis, and schistosomiasis to save government resources. Health and education officials will spearhead the kick off activity in Dita Elementary School in Julita, Leyte where nearby communities are highly vulnerable to schistosomiasis.

The nationwide school-based Deworming Day will be done twice a year every July and January to reduce the prevalence of STH among school children. Those who fail to take deworming drugs on Jan. 27 in their schools can have the pills for free in rural health centers. According to the World Health Organizations, STH are among the most common infections worldwide affecting poor communities. They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor. The main species that infect people are the roundworm, whipworm and hookworms. (SQM)