The Department of Health and Family Welfare, under the Union government’s funding, is running a campaign to deworm children in Karnataka. However, in a major setback, private schools in Bengaluru seem to have no clue about this programme.
The initiative to de-worm children began as a nation-wide programme on Monday. However, when TNM reached out to individual schools in the city, many were clueless about the campaign.
This is a cause for concern as at least half the children in the state are affected by intestinal worms. According to the state’s Health Department, at least 49% of the children here see parasite infestations.
As per sources in Karnataka’s Health and Family Welfare Department, 54,07,999 children should be given the medication in 27,118 private schools across the state.
Unlike polio campaigns, that take place with enough publicity, hardly any are aware of this programme, except those who heard about it in the news.
“We did not know that private schools were even included in the list. No one has informed us about it. If it is underway, why are we not informed on how the tablets have to be collected and where?” questioned the principal of a private school in Rajajinagar who did not wish to be named.
Health Department officials, however, said that meetings were held in this regard starting from December last year.
D Shashi Kumar of the associated Management of Private Schools in Karnataka said that even as there were meetings with the Health Department in the past about the campaign, schools are yet to receive any guidelines on how the de-worming tables have to be collected.
“Some schools have been asked to collect it by themselves from a primary health centre nearby. In such cases, compliance will be very difficult,” he said.
He also pointed out that the campaign was barely seeing any promotions to boost it.
No consent forms
Confusion had prevailed when the state government held the Measles-Rubella campaign as well. Several schools and parents expressed scepticism over the effectives and the side effects of the vaccines.
Schools, when such campaigns occur, have a procedure to follow. A consent form ought to be handed over to parents and only if there is no objection from them, is the child administered medication or vaccine. However, to initiate this process, no message has reached them yet, say CBSE and ICSE schools in the city.
Srinivasan, from the CBSE Schools Association, said that the state’s Health Department had not approached them. “If such drives have to take place, it requires the consent of parents. We have not approached parents as no message about the campaign has been conveyed to us. Many a time, parents are worried about these mass campaigns – especially with several untoward instances being reported in the past. If the state is ready to come forward and take initiative, we are all for doing good for the children.”
The ICSE association echoed his words. Gayathri, a representative of ICSE schools, said that even as they were aware about National De-worming Day, they did not hear that it had been extended to private schools as well. “We have received no circular in this regard,” she said.
National De-worming Day
Soil Transmitted Helminths is seen in Karnataka in good numbers. On the National De-worming Day, Albendazole tablet is given to children aged between one and six. This would be followed by a mop-up round on February 17.
Dr Veena Rao, deputy director, Rahstriya Bala Swasthya Karyakram, said that the Health Department has a target of 1,61,45,370 children. As many as 50,366 government and government-aided, 27,118 private schools and 62,580 anganwadi centres would be targeted.
“Children could be affected by ring worm, tape worm, round, pin or hook worm. This is generally transmitted due to open-air defecation. When people walk barefoot or have poor hand hygiene and consume unclean food and water, they could be affected,” she said.
This is more prevalent in north Karnataka where open-air defecation is a concern, according to officials.