KARACHI: More than 20 per cent of children aged up to 14 years in Karachi are suffering from intestinal worms problem which, experts and officials say, is a curable disorder.

But if not treated timely, it might undermine patients’ physical and mental growth, they added.

Addressing a press conference at the local press club on Thursday, they also urged parents to get their children treated with some deworming medicine which could rid them of the problem and help them grow properly.

“The prevalence of Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) are intestinal worms infecting humans, especially children,” said Director Health Karachi Dr Akram Sultan. “Around 20.8 per cent children here in Karachi have been found to be infected with stomach worms which are hampering their physical and mental growth. We urge parents to get their children chew one tablet of the medicine to be provided during five-day deworming campaign in Karachi starting from Nov 1 to 5, 2021.”

Accompanied by deputy director general (non-communicable diseases) Sindh Dr Noor Muhammad Shah, Pakistan De-worming Initiative director Qadeer Baig, Anila Shafa, Dr Abrar Kazmi and Dr Ubaidur Rehman, the director health Karachi said that during the five-day campaign, around 4.2 million children would be given one tablet of de-worming medicine, which is capable of getting the children rid of stomach worms within two hours.

“This deworming campaign is being launched in the all seven districts of Karachi following a successful exercise in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country. The prevalence of stomach worms is very high in Karachi so there is a need to give the deworming medicine to all the children between 5-14 years of age in the city,” he informed.

The health official maintained that around 10,500 health workers would be taking part in the five-day drive, who have been extensively trained for the job. All the children enrolled in the classes 1-10 and out-of-school children aged 5-14 years would be approached during the drive.

“Intestinal worm infection is a serious public health issue that may eventually lead to malnutrition in the child, impaired growth, leading to issues such as anaemia, loss of appetite, weakness, nausea, recurrent tummy pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. Studies show that it can also cause cognitive issues in kids,” he said and urged parents to get their children have deworming medicine, which have been acquired from the World Health Organization.

“These intestinal worms including hookworms and roundworms are a major cause of anaemia (lack of blood) as well as mental and physical retardation in the children due to malnutrition,” he added.

Qadeer Baig claimed that intestinal worm infection was a serious issue and according to a study conducted by Interactive Research & Development (IRD), prevalence of Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) is as high as 56 per cent in Rawalpindi and around 37 per cent in Gujrat, and added that overall prevalence of stomach worms was between 22 to 24 per cent in the country.

“STH infections or intestinal worms pose a serious threat to long-term health, education and productivity of Pakistan’s children and therefore require immediate attention. Annual mass deworming is very important for our children, as it will help to improve their physical and cognitive growth, enhance school participation and ultimately long-term well being,” Mr Baig added.

He maintained that as per some studies, there were only 10 per cent children enrolled at public schools, 40 per cent at private schools while remaining 50 per cent children either studying at Madressahs or out of school in Karachi. In order to reach out to those children, the campaign would be conducted at public health facilities for two weeks, he added.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2021

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