The Ghana Health Service (GHS) began conducting a mass deworming exercise across 15 regions from yesterday, November 21 to December 9, 2022
The exercise is targeted at 1.94 million schoolchildren aged between five and 14.
It is being undertaken in 11,322 public and private schools in 89 districts spread across 15 regions, except the Ahafo Region.
The Deputy Director-General of the GHS, Dr Anthony Adofo Ofosu, said at a media briefing that the exercise was aimed at improving the health of the children.
The theme for this year’s deworming exercise is: “Achieving health equity to end schistosomiasis”.
Dr Ofosu urged all children to eat before taking the medication, saying that preferably, medicines should be administered immediately after the first break or after children had been served with food by the school feeding programme to give the assurance that they had eaten.
He also urged all parents, guardians and caregivers to ensure their children ate before going to school.
Dr Ofosu said the ultimate goal was to improve the health of the children to reduce absenteeism and improve academic performance, as well as the quality of basic education in the country.
He said it was universally accepted that in the educational sector, deworming young children promoted learner well-being and retention, resulting in the achievement of educational and health outcomes.
He added that by reducing the transmission of infection in the community, deworming substantially improved health and school participation for both treated and untreated school-aged children.
Dr Ofosu said besides school-aged children being the most at-risk age group for those parasitic infections, the most cost-effective way for delivering regular deworming medicines to children on a large scale was through the school system, where there was a high concentration of school-aged children who were in close contact with the community.
He said with support from the GHS, teachers had been trained to safely deliver deworming medicines without any hitches.
To that end, he said, a cascaded national trainer of trainers’ workshop was conducted in Kumasi in September this year to provide orientation for School Health Education Programme officers, pharmacists, neglected tropical diseases coordinators, and other stakeholders, adding: “School-based deworming, therefore, has its full impact when delivered within an integrated school health system.”
He said children who were out of school were expected to be mobilised and directed to nearby schools for treatment.
He said Praziquantel (600mg) and Albendazole (400mg), the medicines of choice, would be administered to each child, adding that the dosage was by height, using a measuring strip, while the medicines would be administered under strict supervision of teachers and health workers.
He said the value of the medicines and the cost of implementing the deworming exercise were immense, running into several millions of Ghana cedis, noting that the media were expected to play a key role in disseminating relevant information on the exercise to the public to improve the medicine uptake and minimise confusion.
“May I say that these medicines have been proved safe for use and have been used for these treatments over the years in Ghana and elsewhere, with little or no discomfort,” he said.
He added that every school had been mapped to a health facility in the country, and as such all health facilities had been put on the alert to manage any adverse drug effect free of charge should any case be recorded.