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Ogun 2020 deworming exercise: The truth

Last week, the media was awashed with the news on the second round of 2020 deworming exercise in Ogun State which was targetted at 700,000 school-age children between 5 and 14 years old. The importance of the exercise which is usually carried out twice a year in the state cannot be over-emphasised.

It is no news that the Prince Dapo Abiodun led government in the State has health on the front burner of its agenda. Hence, numerous measures such as the training of 600 health workers and 5,000 teachers towards the exercise were put in place to ensure a seamless outing.

The November 2020 edition of the deworming exercise was flagged-off on Tuesday, 17 November at St. Anne Primary School, Oke- Ilewo, Abeokuta with the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, taking the lead in having the drug administered on her while other top government functionaries such as the Special Adviser to the Governor on Health, Dr. Tayo Lawal, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Adesanya Ayinde, the duo of Senior Special Assistants to Governor on Health, Dr. Omolayo Fred-Omojole and Dr. Ololade Kehinde took their turn. Speaking on the importance of the exercise, the Head of the Department of Community Medicine and Primary Care Development, Federal Medical Center (FMC), Abeokuta, Dr. (Mrs.) Imhonopi Gloria Bosede, said that more than one in four persons in sub-Sahara Africa have intestinal worms, noting that over 180 million persons in this part of the world are at the risk of having these worms which can lead to stunted growth in children, prevent absorption of nutrients and hinder cognitive development.

Dr. Imhonopi, pointed that the presence of these worms can cause regular absenteeism from school, thereby making them to lag behind in their studies. Having a clearer understanding of the importance of getting rid of worms which are inimical to the well-being of children, the Ogun State Government despite the attendant challenges the world at large had witnessed in 2020, remained undeterred by ensuring that there was no vacuum in the already set time-table for the year by carrying out the exercise in 14 local government areas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had recommended the exercise should be carried out in local government areas where there is more than 20 per cent infestation of these dangerous worms. And where attention is given to this action, according to WHO, “there is increased nutritional uptake, increased immunity level to fight other childhood diseases and improved work potentials and livelihood opportunities, among others”.

As the exercise was ongoing simultaneously across the selected local government areas, the reports of the unfortunate death of pupils of a government-owned primary school in idi-Ape area of Abeokuta, the State Capital filtered in. This sad and worrisome incident, calls for concern from all and sundry.

But it came with the misinformation that it was the deworming drug administered on the two kids that led to their death. On her part, the Head Teacher of the said school (name with-held), mentioned that a total of 249 pupils had the drugs administered on them on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 with no one showing any sign of the side effect of the drugs.

“The following morning, I got a call from one of my teachers that we lost two of our pupils who lived in the same compound after some terrible of episodes of stooling and deworming before they were rushed to a private hospital. Without wasting time, I had to rush down to the school, called my Boss in the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) while we visited the house of the deceased children to know what actually went wrong,” she said.

On hearing about the untimely death of the two school children, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, immediately visited the families and school, in company of her team of health officials and Abeokuta South Local Government. Worried about the irreparable loss, Coker pledged to get to the root of the matter. Although one of the pupils had been buried immediately, but the Commissioner for Health requested for the release of the remains of the other for a post-mortem test and thorough investigation to avoid future reoccurrence. According to her, this is a strange incident which we cannot allow to go just like that without investigations.

“It is sad that the exercise that is for the benefits of our children will turn the other way round. The Neglected tropical Diseases (NTDs) are associated with low mortality but the disease is a huge burden with ngative impact on academic. This is the reason 14 local government areas which are endemic for soil infection were selected for this beneficial exercise. I have directed for an immediate investigation without delay,” she affirmed. In the course of the investigation, some facts as revealed by the Director of Public Health, Ogun State Ministry of Health, Dr. Festus Soyinka began to unfold.

“During the investigation, we discovered that no other person apart from these two children, out of the 249 pupils presented any challenge. “We brought a pathologist and doctors to see if there will be a need to do autopsy but on gross examination, we discovered that the child which had not been buried lost a lot of water which will not happen from just ordinary vomiting. “On getting to the private hospital, we confirmed that she had history of diarrhea and vomiting.

Appearance of the watery stool looks much like that of cholera which is one of the causes of gastrointestinal that kills fast. “The second child was brought late and according to them, they had lost the child before they brought her,” Soyinka stated. A critical study of the particular deworming drug which was administered on the school-age children, according to the Medical Editor, John Cunha, showed that its side effects are dizziness, headache, vomiting (once), abdominal pain and temporary hair loss.

He gave a strong advice that, where any of these symptoms occurs, medical help should be sought without delay. However, the Ogun State Government, having established that the children possibly died of severe vomiting and diarrhea, sent a red alert to all its local government health facilities on possible Cholera outbreak and engaged in prepositioning of materials for case management in government hospitals.

In a statement by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Coker said that Cholera, Yellow Fever, Measles, Lassa Fever are diseases of public health concern which are common during dry season. Coker revealed that advocacy and sensitization has commenced across the length and breadth of the state immediately, just as she urged residents to be wary of open defecation and other unhygienic practices.

• Onasanya is the Press officer in Ogun State Ministry of Health ( HYPERLIN K”mailto:femlandcommu” femlandcommunication@ 08084818609)

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