NTDs infect more than 500 million children throughout the world frequently preventing them from attending and performing well in school. Even healthy children may miss out on the opportunity to receive an education if they have to stay home to care for parents or other relatives who are sick or disabled as a result of NTD infections.
Research clearly demonstrates that NTD control can improve maternal and child health, increase worker productivity and increase school attendance. Harvard University economist, Dr. Michael Kremer, has shown that treating intestinal worm infections is the single most cost-effective way to boost school attendance. According to Dr. Kremer, deworming children can reduce school absenteeism by up to 25 percent. A separate study by the Unviersity of Malaysia and Sana’a University on deworming in Malaysia also showed that NTD control has a positive effect on school attendance.
This is especially important for girls, who account for 70 percent of the 130 million children not in school, putting them at a significant disadvantage to their male peers. Improving access to school-based health interventions will improve opportunities for young girls to stay in school.
NTDs have a negative impact on children’s cognitive and physical development. The typical side effects of NTD infection – including anemia, fever and stomach pain – can make children too sick to walk to school and make it difficult for them to concentrate and complete complex tasks if they do attend. Chronic infections can eventually cause huge swelling of the limbs, blindness and other disabilities that can also prevent children from attending school and learning.
Because children are so vulnerable to the effects of NTDs, school systems offer a unique and effective way to provide treatment to children who are infected or at risk of infection. Many schools have successfully used deworming to improve the health of their students. For instance, in 2011 the Global Network worked in collaboration with Deworm the World to implement a school-based deworming program in India in the state of Bihar. The program successfully provided deworming treatment for 17 million school-age children in over 67,000 schools in one of the largest school-based programs ever conducted.
- Worms at Work: Long-run Impacts of Child Health Gains
- Soil-transmitted helminthiasis: a critical but neglected factor influencing school participation of Aboriginal children in rural Malaysia