835 million children infected with soil transmitted helminths (STH) require immediate treatment around the globe1. STH infections are found mainly in geographic areas with warm and moist climates where sanitation and hygiene are poor2.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Pakistan as a high burden country for STH with the available data. In order to understand the burden of STH in Pakistan there is a need of a baseline survey to gauge prevalence of STH followed by a policy on nationwide deworming campaign.
The survey was conducted by utilizing a WHO recommended microscope-based technique called ‘Kato-Katz’ to collect stool samples and analyze type of worm infection. The technicians were provided a comprehensive training on the Kato-Katz technique at the Indus Hospital beforehand in order to ensure quality data collection.
In 5 months, IRD teams visited 77 schools across four provinces and one territory to collect samples from over 4,000 students. The selection of schools followed WHO’s recommended ecological methodology to gather epidemiological data, which were located in different ecological zones.
Moreover, at every school children were given awareness about worm infections, hygiene and sanitation. The survey teams also provided deworming medication to every consented school with the help of WHO global drug donation program.
Survey results indicate that STH is not widespread throughout the country, but confined to northern areas, with the highest prevalence focused in the areas around Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Much of the southern region of Pakistan has very low levels of infection, with the notable exception of the vicinity of Karachi.
Since now the baseline has been established, IRD and Evidence Action is proposing a nationwide program to adapt the school-based deworming approach recommended by Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-Pal).