Friday, March 19, 2010

De-Worming Training In Banjul

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-Participants from the West African states of Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria are in Banjul for a three-day training workshop on de-worming, and on the FTI (Fast Track Initiative) proposal development for the Education sector.
The aim of the training session was to assist the governments of The Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia to develop school health proposals for the FTI funding (using de-worming as an entry point), and to provide master level training in the design and implementation of school-based de-worming.
The training workshop was funded by Partnership for Child Development (PCD), and expertise was provided by an otganization called De-Worm the World and the World Bank.
Officially opening the workshop, the Gambia’s Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education, Baboucarr Bouy, said literature has it that worms infect more than one-third of the world’s population, with the most intense infection in children and the poor.
In the poorest countries, children, according to PS Bouy, are likely to be infected from the time they stop breast-feeding, and to be continually infected and re-infected for the rest of their lives.
While noting that only rarely does infection have acute consequences for children, Bouy however, warned that ``the infection is long term and chronic, and can negatively affect all aspects of a child’s development namely, health, nutrition, cognition, learning and educational access and achievement ’’.
There is overwhelming evidence to suggest the correlation between worm infection and low learning outcomes of children, and this is corroborated by studies in low-income countries in Africa, South America and Asia which, according to the permanent secretary for Education, ``confirm that children with intense worm infections perform poorly – based on learning ability tests, cognitive function and educational achievement ’’.
The participants were also told by Bouy that differences in test performance equivalent to a six-month delay in development could typically be attributed to heavier infections of the sort experienced by around 60 million school-aged children.
And he also pointed to absenteeism as more frequent among infected than uninfected children.
The heavier the intensity of infection, the greater the absenteeism, to the extent that infected children attend school half as much as their uninfected peers, Bouy further informed his audience.
He went on to say that ``conversely, children who are worm-free are lively, and have a good appetite and are always ready to face new challenges in school ``.
Bouy believes such outcome contributes to good health and nutrition for children of school-age, which in turn leads to increased enrolment and attendance, reduced class repetition and increased educational attainment.
Given the benefits associated with the latter, Bouy is of the view that it is in the interest of any nation to liberate its children of school-going age from worm infection in support of the principles and ideals of Education For All (EFA).
It was for that reason that the Gambia’s education sector, in close partnership with development partners such as the African Development Bank, UNICEF, WHO and World Food Programme (WFP) benefited from the implementation of a school-based de-worming program which is described as a safe, simple and cost-effective strategy.
``School-based de-worming has demonsrated its ability not only in the Gambia, but elsewhere, to reduce student absenteeism by 25 %, and at a cost of less than US$0.50 per child per year. ’’
Research, Bouy informed the workshop, has reliably revealed that de-worming is six times cheaper than providing meals and costs 20 times less than giving uniforms.
That with proper targeting of children in need as opposed to a full blown country-wide intervention, every infected child could be treated, with immediate impacts on their health, education, and long-term productivity.
Bouy believes that if there ever was a best buy for the education sector, ``de-worming is surely one``.
However, he said, it must be noted that the success of de-worming could not be devoid of schools, given that there are more schools than clinics and more teachers than health workers.
He added that schools offer a readily available extensive and sustained infrastructure with a skilled workforce that is in close contact with the community.
Such infrastructure in schools, in the words of the senior education officer, provides a unique opportunity to deliver medicine to the highest number of children, and that with minimum training and support from local health services, teachers could deliver this simple intervention to large numbers of school-aged children in a sustainable fashion.
``Teachers, therefore, need training to understand the rationale for de-worming and how to administer the pills and keep a record of the distribution, `` Bouy remarked. Undertaking this master-level training in the design and implementation of school-based de-worming is not only timely, but provides an opportunity for their education systems to deliver an integrated school health program that includes the key elements of the Focus Resources on Effective School Health (FESH) health policies that advocate the role of teachers in health promotion and delivery, he added.

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