By Leilani S. Junio
MANILA, July 30 (PNA) — More than eight million school-age children studying in public elementary schools nationwide were listed as “dewormed” during the conduct of the National School Deworming Day (NSDD) on Wednesday, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Health Undersecretary Dr. Vicente Y. Belizario Jr. said on Thursday a total of 8,108,979 pupils were administered with the deworming tablets out of the total target of 16 million students nationwide in connection with the campaign to eliminate worms or soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) among children.
Belizario said they are planning to create a mopping-up operation in the areas where there there has been low turnout to ensure that the five- to 12-year-old elementary pupils in public schools will not be deprived of the chance to have access to the government’s free deworming initiative dubbed as “Oplan: Goodbye Bulate.”
The campaign seeks to increase mass administration coverage for school-age children or those in Kindergarten to Grade 6.
Deworming children in schools has been found to be a good strategy to reduce the burden of STH infections with a positive impact on children’s education and health.
Meanwhile, Dr. Belizario said the deworming campaign is not something new.
In the past years, he said deworming was also conducted but limited to health centers only, meaning the administration of deworming tablets was done solely at the health centers.
For this year, the DOH decided to expand the program by partnering with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) through the local government units (LGUs).
The partnership aims to make collaborative efforts in ensuring that children needing the deworming activity will undergo the process twice a year so that they can reap the benefits of becoming healthy and strong future citizens of the country.
Belizario said that what makes the program unique for this year is that the teachers and LGUs are joining the DOH to ensure that the program is reaching further the population that mostly need it.
The deworming is part of the High Impact Five (HI-5) program of the DOH designed to ensure that Filipino families are enjoying the benefits of the universal health care (UHC) agenda of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III so that no one will be left behind in terms of health services, especially among the poor.
With the conduct of the activity within the school, the teachers and not only health workers are given the responsibility to assist in the deworming of the children. This way, the teachers can effectively communicate to their students the beneficial effects of being free from worm parasites that usually feed on the nutrients being taken by the children inside their body.
The program wants to educate the children that it is important that they are receiving health supplements that can promote their good health, growth and development.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children with STH often have poor performance in school, grow slowly both physically and mentally because the worms contribute in loss of appetite, slow down children’s interest in their studies and make them malnourished.
In addition, some children who have worms in their body suffer from anemia and cannot concentrate on their studies because the worms are moving constantly inside their body.
Worms or STH can enter the body of a child once he or she begins walking, especially on barefoot, or when he/she touches soil where the STH are breeding as eggs.
According to DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin, the STH and their eggs may enter the child’s body and stay there as parasites until the child grows as adult if he/she has not been dewormed in her younger years.
Secretary Garin said that adults who also want to be dewormed can also undergo the process if they want because the deworming pills are not limited to children alone.
For those who can afford it, the medicine can be bought from pharmacies.
Meanwhile, the DOH said that while there may be negative reactions that some children can experience while they undergo deworming, such reactions are normally occurring as signs that the drug is effective.
The DOH said there was no truth that the tablets administered in the deworming campaign were already expired, stressing that the expiration and quality of the drug have been thoroughly checked and inspected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organization.
The DOH added that of the reported number of hospitalized children who suffered mild side effects, only 10 are still in the hospitals and will be discharged anytime on Thursday. (PNA)