Parliament calls for national policy on deworming pupils

Kiambu MP John Machua during a school feeding program in Kiambu constituency. [Josphat Thiong’o, Standard]

The Ministry of Health is now under pressure from Parliament to establish a national policy on deworming for school-going children to boost class attendance.

Parliament yesterday adopted a motion by Kiambu MP John Machua that seeks to ensure that children get the highest attainable standards of health through the initiative and implored the Health Ministry to act swiftly and establish a clear policy on the same and a budgetary framework.

In the motion approved during Wednesday's sitting, the MPs were concerned that children countrywide were exposed to effects of poor sanitation such as parasite infestation, which lead to anaemia, stunted growth and other salient problems which further lead to low school attendance and impact education standards.

“According to research, school-based deworming of children provides a huge range of scholastic and social benefits, such as increased school attendance and healthier kids who do better in school and further, this is a low-cost approach that makes use of already-existing school structures in administering deworming treatment to primary school pupils,” said Machua.

“…therefore, this House urges that the national government, through the Ministry of Health, develops a national policy on deworming school-going children as a crucial part of mainstreaming of healthcare access in the country,” he added.

The MP noted that previous programmes conducted by the Ministry of Health in partnership with a non-governmental organisation, Evidence Action, had only been piloted in selected counties and regretted that the deworming efforts have largely been uncoordinated and dependent on “external support with no clear policy or budgetary framework.”

“Deworming has proven to be one of the most cost-effective interventions to improving attendance and retention of pupils. In schools. If we care about the future of this country, we have to indeed take care of our children by investing in their future and by removing anything that is a barrier to their education and to their health,” emphasized Machua.

According to the Ministry of Health, school-based mass deworming reduced absenteeism by 25 per cent for those in treatment schools. Furthermore, deworming has spillover effects for untreated school-age and preschool children.

The National School-Based Deworming Programme (NSBDP), jointly led by the Ministries of Health and Education, with technical support from the global non-profit-making organization, Evidence Action, marks 11 years since its inception this year.

Under the Programme, children aged between 2 and 14, regardless of their enrollment status, are provided with free deworming treatment by teachers at schools. The NSBDP had by 2022 conducted a total of nine rounds of school-based deworming treatment, reaching up to six million children annually across 27 counties.

As of June 2022, data showed that a total of 1,881,566 pupils had been treated against worms in Western region comprising of Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega and Vihiga counties. This was in line with the Health Ministry’s target to administer the drugs to 2,135,900 pupils in the region.

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