The Kingdom of Eswatini has surpassed the target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for deworming coverage and obtained 85% during the third round of the Mass Medicine Administration (MMA) campaign. The annual campaign was conducted from 11 to 27 June 2018.
In order to eliminate Schistosomiasis and Soil Transmitted Helminthiasis as public health problems, WHO encourages countries to reach at least 75% of eligible school aged children with lifesaving medicines. About 310 000 children from 916 public and private schools were targeted for the third round of the MMA known as the deworming campaign. By the end of the campaign, about 263 882 (85%) children from 845 (92%) of the targeted schools swallowed the medicines. This showed a 13% increase from the 72% national average recorded in 2016. A total of 57 520 of the children were from the Hhohho region, 71 868 from Manzini, 68 582 from Lubombo and 65 912 from Shiselweni region.
There has been a gradual increase in coverage since the relaunching of the MMA in 2016.This shows that communities are accepting the campaign. This might be due to intensified community engagement and social mobilisation by the ministries of Health and Education and Training. Of note is that there has been poor uptake of the campaign by private school, but this year the campaign received positive response even among private schools, a move which was commended by the ministry.
During the campaign, the deworming 48 teams made up of final year nursing students and school health nurses with assistance from class teachers observed the children to ensure that they swallowed the medicines. The teams also stayed at the schools for at least an hour after administering the medicines observing the children for any immediate side effects and adverse events. A total of 486 (0.2%) children reported experiencing minor side effects during the campaign.
This intervention was not only received well by the learners but teachers also took an interest and about 6 927 teachers were dewormed, which is approximately 50% of all teachers in the country. The high deworming rate by the teachers encouraged the learners to take the medicines.
School based MMA is very important as it reduces the number of heavily worm infected children, decreases anaemia and improves nutritional status of children. It also increases optimal growth among children, improves cognitive, mental and physical development and ultimately results in improved school attendance and positive educational outcomes. The adult population is encouraged to visit their nearest health facilities to deworm at least once a year.
“These deworming tablets will work more effectively if the environment is kept safe by improving use of sanitation, safe water and hygiene all the time as well as washing of all fruits and vegetables prior to consumption and avoiding eating uninspected meat as we move towards the elimination of NTDs in the Kingdom of Eswatini by the year 2020,” Epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health, Mr Vusi Lokoftwako emphasised.
The 2018 deworming exercise was officially launched by the Minister of Health Honorable Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane and WHO Country Representative Dr Tigest Ketsela Mengestu at Ejubukweni High School just outside the capital city Mbabane. This exercise was supported by the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, Ministries of Health, Education and Training and Tinkundla Administration and Development as well as Non-governmental Organizations and community leaders.
The Ministry of Health commended the support from both print and electronic media, as well as radio producers who advocated for the campaign during their routine weekly programmes. The ministry also thanked its partners for providing transport to carry out the deworming exercise. Further, the Ministry applauded the continued support from parents/guardians for allowing their children to be dewormed, as well as the schools’ principals and teachers for making the campaign a success.