Deworming at school is one of the most effective means of increasing school attendance – and by that fostering education and development. That’s what the WHO says, that’s what researchers of the Poverty Action Lab at MIT say and that’s what convinced the World Economic Forum in Davos to launch the “Deworm the World” initiative.
The Ethiopian government takes part in this initiative – but still, this is not enough: “The government provides only one deworming pill per year for children between 5 and 15, but two would be necessary” says Kunuz Haji of the Zonal Health Bureau in Jimma, where our coffee comes from.
But what have intestinal worms to do with development anyway? Why are deworming treatments for school children so important?
“Worm infections can lead to abdominal pain, listlessness, malnutrition…” Doesn’t sound like “Yeay, I’m going to school today”, hm? That’s why in a study conducted by Edward Miguel and Michael Kremer in Kenya, deworming treatments reduced absenteeism by a quarter. Which might not seem too much when you think of children not going to school in European schools. But the absenteeism rate in Kenya was around 30% in the schools that were not treated. So if a week has 5 days of school and a month has 4 weeks, an average child was staying at home 6 days per month. Deworming reduced this number by 1.5 days.
But scientists wouldn’t be scientist if they would stop here, Kremer and his team also wanted to know the long term effects of the project. And they are even more impressive than in the short term: Compared to young adults who had not been treated, those who had swallowed the pills a more than 20% higher income.
This is why Deworming = Development. And this is why we want to supplement the Ethiopian government’s program to provide a year-round coverage against intestinal worms.
Poverty Action Lab at MIT: https://www.povertyactionlab.org/sites/default/files/publications/2012.3.22-Deworming.pdf
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/features/2015/rwanda-deworming-campaign/en/
About the studies challenging the 1990 Kenya study’s results: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/08/economist-explains-6