|At school No. 1019, children receive de-worming tablets from Luanda’s provincial directorate of health.|
By Lone Hvass
LUANDA, Angola, 24 September 2008 – Over the next month, primary school children in all of Angola’s 18 provinces will receive de-worming tablets as part of a national campaign that is now in its third year. The campaign aims to ensure that the country’s children have better health for better learning.
Parasitic infections, or intestinal worms, can lead to malnutrition, anaemia and slow cognitive development – all of which have a negative impact on child health and well-being, as well as negative implications for a child’s ability to concentrate and learn.
In Angola, the school de-worming campaign is led by the Ministries of Health and Education, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization. It is part of a broader programme to promote health in Angolan schools; this effort includes the provision of water and latrines, the establishment of hygiene education and health and hygiene clubs, and a school feeding programme.
To oversee implementation of the campaign, inspection teams from the provincial directorates of health and education are visiting select schools throughout the country.
Protection for better health
UNICEF recently accompanied an inspection team on a visit to municipalities in Samba and Maianga, both in Luanda.
At School No. 1019 in Samba, the team of inspectors spoke to the school principal about implementation of the campaign. They also observed as teachers distributed de-worming tablets to children when they arrived for class.
Many of the children had taken the medicine before, as this is the third national campaign. Some had even received the tablets in pre-school during immunization drives.
“Children under the age of five receive de-worming treatment twice a year during National Immunization Days against polio,” said Maria Nazare, Luanda coordinator of school health at the provincial health directorate. “But in order to ensure that all children are protected, we have to include school-age children, as well.”
De-worming in schools builds upon Angola’s national process to revitalize primary health services, especially for women and for children under the age of five. This process is being supported by UNICEF’s Accelerated Child Survival and Development Programme.
“What we have seen from last year’s de-worming campaign – and it is something that will hopefully intensify in this year’s campaign – is that leadership structures are working,” said UNICEF Representative in Angola Angela Kearney. “The ministries have taken the lead in strengthening and fine-tuning a workflow to make interventions like de-worming happen right down to the municipal level.”
To sustain the gains in child health, it is vital that certain primary health care interventions are continued throughout the school cycle, so de-worming has now become a standard intervention in Angola.