Cambodia has become the first country to reach a global goal of protecting 75 percent of school-aged children against intestinal parasites, the World Health Organization said Friday.
A recently completed parasite treatment campaign conducted by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, with international support, accomplished a global anti-parasite target set by the WHO, six years ahead of schedule, according to a WHO news release. Under the program more than 6,500 primary schools were provided with anti-parasite medication, it said.
“In 2001, WHO set a target of covering at least 75 percent of school-aged children with regular treatment as the global goal for parasite control for 2010,” the news release said.
Cambodia seems to have achieved that target, said Dr Reiko Tsuyuoka, a WHO representative in Cambodia.
Of the some 2.8 million children enrolled in primary schools in Cambodia, 2.2 million were administered the treatment. But children who were not enrolled in primary schools, an unknown number, did not receive the treatment, Tsuyuoka said.
Five years ago, more than 70 percent of Cambodian children were infected with intestinal worms, according to the WHO. Children affected by the intestinal parasites often weigh up to 2 kg less than healthy children, have a greater risk of becoming anemic, and in addition, their short- and long-term memory, reasoning capacity and reading comprehension suffer as well, the WHO said.
The anti-intestinal parasite campaign distributes pills to teachers who, in turn, administer the pills to their students twice a year. Tsuyuoka said that the campaign will continue, as the risk of reinfection is extremely high due to the poor sanitation and hygiene of many areas in Cambodia. The campaign also has a new target of encouraging communities to improve sanitation conditions, he said.