Dubai Cares today announced a new humanitarian investment of AED 7,346,200 (USD 2 million) in a health and education program in Vietnam. Set to benefit 905,000 children across 2,600 schools in the country, the program aims to reduce the incidence of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) amongst students in Vietnam over a three year period and gradually eliminate one of the leading causes of student absenteeism in the country.
The program supports the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, to give children - regardless of their nationality, creed or religion- the opportunity to become positive contributors to society by eliminating the barriers to education that children in developing countries face on a daily basis. His Highness’s vision extends far and beyond the Middle East region, addressing the educational development agenda around the globe including countries such as Vietnam. NTDs such as Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH), more commonly known as intestinal worms, have long been known to limit physical and mental growth in children, affecting participation and productivity in schools. The World Health Organization (WHO) - the United Nations public health arm -has called for greater efforts to control STH as a key priority as part of its larger neglected tropical disease (NTD) agenda.
In partnership with international development organization Thrive Networks (formerly known as East Meets West Foundation), Dubai Cares will roll out the school-based deworming program across four rural provinces in Vietnam, for improved health outcomes amongst students. Commenting on the partnership and the program in Vietnam, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said: “With programs in 35 countries, Dubai Cares relies on key partnerships with organizations such as Thrive Networks to effectively implement a variety of programs across the globe. The affliction of STHs have resulted in serious challenges to the physical and educational development of many children and their communities worldwide, including those in Vietnam. These, and other parasitic diseases contribute to a high-level of infant, child and maternal malnutrition, which in turn impact children’s learning capabilities. Through this program, we will be supporting an integrated and holistic initiative that sees all members of the community work together to ensure success against this devastating issue.”
Under the partnership, Dubai Cares will work with Thrive Networks on a program that combines sanitation and hygiene into deworming activities with the ultimate goal of delaying reinfection and increasing sustainability. As part of the program, over 905,000 preschool and school-age children from 2,634 kindergartens and primary schools will benefit from deworming treatments. Along with treating the children, the program will also train teachers and community health workers to administer the medicine to their students at school, thereby ensuring a cost-effective and scalable approach.
In addition, the program will see teachers, amongst 10,000 individuals including health workers and local Vietnam Women’s Union members, receiving training to deliver education in their communities on improving personal hygiene, handling food properly and eliminating unsafe soil fertilization practices. The knowledge and educational components of the program will ultimately benefit the wider community as it helps keep reinfestation rates low.
Thrive Networks Vietnam Country Director Minh Chau Nguyen notes that these complementary activities are key to the success of the deworming program. “The benefit of the deworming medicine cannot be fully realized if the child is quickly re-infected because of unsanitary, unhygienic conditions at home or in the broader community. We are excited to launch a first of its kind integrated approach to deworming that includes improving access to sanitation and raising awareness of hygienic practices. The project offers a significant opportunity for the WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Schools) and NTD communities to collaborate, learn from each other, and generate evidence that will motivate global communities to adopt an integrated approach to help eradicate STH.”
Dubai Cares’ program launch in Vietnam is in line with the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, which created a global alliance led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to reduce the global burden of NTDs. Targeting 10 diseases, the partnership has ramped up efforts over the past two years to reach the goals of the World Health Organization to control or eliminate these diseases by the end of this decade. The diseases present a serious threat to children’s futures by hampering their educational opportunities. Through the alliance and the new program, Dubai Cares aims to strike at the heart of the issue by educating children on how to keep the diseases at bay and thus ensure a healthy and engaged student body.
“Many children in developing countries face health issues such as intestinal worms, making them too sick or too tired to concentrate in school and consequently preventing them from continuing their education, leading to high drop-out rates. Many others do not even enroll in schools due to such health issues. Therefore, deworming not only helps retain children in schools, but also enables those who are infested to get well and go to school,” said Al Gurg.
Over the past seven years, Dubai Cares, with the support of the UAE community, has been facilitating change and development in children’s education in developing communities around the globe. To date, Dubai Cares has reached more than 10 million children in 35 developing countries.