Intestinal worms and parasites are common in developing countries due to lack of adequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene practices. School-aged children in Gaza and West Bank are adversely affected by intestinal worm infestation which is responsible for the high prevalence of poor physical and intellectual growth, impaired cognitive functionality, Anemia and vulnerability to other diseases.
Guided by the vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai of providing children in developing countries with access to quality primary education, Dubai Cares seeks and maintains strategic relationships with various internationally recognized aid and development organizations, and contributes to the UN Millennium Development Goal 8, which entails developing a global partnership for development.
As part of its strategic partnership with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dubai Cares will join efforts with “Global Network” in Gaza and West Bank, to counter this serious issue. The program which will be implemented for a period of one year will eventually benefit 258,000 children enrolled with UNRWA schools.
Commenting on this new initiative, Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares said, “Intestinal worms are considered to be one of the most critical mortality factors causing malnutrition and anemia among children in Gaza and the West Bank, resulting in an increase in absenteeism and drop in performance. A large scale de-worming program and micro-nutrient supplementation combined with basic sanitary and hygiene education will contribute to the good health and nutrition of these children, which in turn will lead to increased enrolment and attendance and, increased educational attainment”.
A survey conducted by UNRWA in 2005 revealed the prevalence of anemia among 23.95% of all school children and 36.3% of first grade students in Gaza. In the West Bank, 14.7% and 14.6% of school children and first grade students were diagnosed with anemia respectively.
“Today, anemia is one of the most common nutritional problems in the world, with consequences on health, social and economic development. Our objective behind this joint-initiative is to improve and prevent further degradation of the nutritional status of children in UNRWA schools in Gaza and the West Bank through the provision of de-worming dozes to all enrolled school children, iron supplementation for first grade children, treatment for children suffering from anemia, and the development and distribution of educational material promoting preventive hygiene practices” added Al Gurg.
In developing countries treatment of schoolchildren with de-worming drugs can reduce primary school absenteeism by 25%. “At a cost of US$ 0.02 per dose of Mebendazole (500mg) which is one of the most common medications,” Al Gurg added, “De-worming is definitely one of the single most cost-effective means of improving school attendance and giving these children the hope for a better future and the opportunity to become positive contributors to their communities.”