'One Crore 70 million children at risk of pest infection'
KARACHI: A government document has revealed that 40 million children aged 5 to 15 years in 40 districts of Pakistan are at risk of migraine-related helminth infections (STH).
Helminth infections are believed to be intestinal worms that enter the body through the soil.
Health officials have called for de-warming at the level of schools established nationwide, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The first STH survey, conducted in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) by the Ministry of National Health, revealed the number of 18 million children.
The survey revealed that out of one crore 70 million children, only 46 million children in Karachi need annual treatment.
In areas where there is a lack of sanitation, these insect eggs contaminate the soil, STH infections can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, loss of blood and protein, rectal prolapse, and decreased physical and brain development.
The document states that the Sindh Education Directorate of Inspection and Registration of Private Institutions has launched a de-warming program in Karachi.
It added that "the directorate has asked private schools to provide details of the number of teaching staff and students before January 10 so that a comprehensive campaign can be launched in the city later this month."
In addition to school-based programs, Specialist Health has suggested the launch of a parent awareness campaign.
"The de-warming program is a good move, but we need to inform parents about prevention and treatment for a long-term sustainable solution," said Dr Shahid Ahmed, a gastroenterologist based in Karachi.
He pointed out that STH infections cause Anaemia and should be dealt with on a long-term basis.
Dr Shahid Ahmed said that 'A few years ago Aga Khan University had identified Anaemia in women after research, the study said that the prevalence of Anaemia in married women aged 15 to 44 years in Pakistan was 26% in urban areas. And in rural areas, it is 47%.
"The rate of Anaemia among pregnant women in urban areas is similarly between 29% and 50%," she said.
“Unfortunately, we have not made any long-term plans to meet this challenge,” said Dr Shahid Ahmed.