The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.5 billion people are infected globally with soil transmitted helminths (STH), with over 836 million children worldwide in need of treatment. These intestinal worms disproportionately affect children and the poor and are easily transmitted in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene conditions. School age children suffer the greatest intensity and morbidity.
Pakistan is among the top-10 highest burden countries for STH globally, and the only high burden country that does not have a deworming of at-risk school–age children.
A recent national STH prevalence survey Pakistan’s STH Survey found that over 6 million children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (17 million school aged children in Pakistan) are at risk of STH and require regular Treatment. The negative impacts of STH are on children’s health (anemia, malnourishment, impaired cognition and physical developments), education (overall lower attendance and performance) and livelihood (decreased productivity and lower wages). WHO recommends annual mass deworming in areas where STH prevalence is 20-50%, and twice annual deworming in areas exceeding 50% prevalence. Treatment can be easily administered in schools by teachers, health workers and other prominent places for out of school children like mosques, health facilities etc targeting children where they already are.
The survey further indicates that, in accordance with WHO recommendations, annual deworming is needed in 16 districts in KP (Chitral, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Swat, Kohistan, Batagram, Shangla, Buner, Torghar, Swabi, Mardan, Malakand, Charsada, Nowshera, Peshawar and Haripur). Over 6 million children aged 5-15 years in KP are at risk for STH infection and stand to benefit from a mass deworming program, regardless of whether they attend public schools, private schools, religious schools, or not enrolled in school.