On April 28 and 29, 2016, approximately 471,000 schoolchildren across three Vietnamese provinces were administered with a safe, effective, and extremely low-cost medication to cure infection by intestinal parasitic worms. A week later, another 258,000 students from a fourth province were treated, amounting to a total of nearly 730,000 children, which equates to every school-aged child within these four provinces. Worm infections interfere with nutrient uptake, can lead to anemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development, and pose a serious threat to children’s health, education, and productivity. Infected children are often too sick or tired to concentrate at school, or to attend at all.
This mass drug administration (MDA) to fight soil-transmitted helminth infection was made possible by a three-year, $2 million grant from the Dubai Cares charitable foundation to Thrive Networks (known as East Meets West Foundation in Asia) and our partner, the Deworm the World Initiative, led by Evidence Action. In addition, several Vietnamese government agencies made a vital contribution (specifically, the Ministry of Health and Vietnam Health Environment Management Agency; the National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology; and the Ministry of Education and Training), by helping to train almost 7,500 field officials in a matter of just over a week.
Over the next few years, this program will fund six MDA rounds as well as activities linked to improving hygiene behaviors among schoolchildren in an effort to prevent worm reinfection.
There are two essential aspects to this work. First, we are working with our government counterparts to build a systematic deworming regime that provides rigorous training to health service providers and teachers as well as the careful, expedited distribution of medicine, reporting forms, and promotional materials. If the initial drug deployments prove successful, our objective is for the Vietnamese government to adopt a systematic deworming approach as official government policy. Second, we will carefully test a number of ideas for increasing handwashing and other risk-averting behaviors among schoolchildren in a randomized control trial; the results of this research will drive a scaled-up execution of hygiene education activities across 2,800 schools within the four provinces.
Thrive Networks is sincerely grateful for the opportunity to work with Evidence Action and the extraordinarily dedicated officials of the Vietnamese government in a collective effort to show one way in which deworming can be achieved sustainably and effectively.