ISLAMABAD, Dec 23 (APP):First Lady Samina Arif Alvi on Monday said mass deworming of 17 million children in Pakistan was important in directly supporting achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and also hitting the government’s top health targets of overcoming malnutrition and anemia.

She was speaking at the launch of awareness campaign of the second Annual Mass Deworming at the Islamabad Model College for Girls, F-7/4, with January 23, 2020 set as the Deworming Day.

The school-based deworming programme in coordination with the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education will treat 547,000 children aged 5-14 years in Islamabad to overcome intestinal infections.

The First Lady said benefits of deworming were proved in shape of improved health and academic performance of the school-age children.

Begum Alvi termed ‘alarming’ the findings of a national survey to assess intestinal worm infections, revealing that approximately 17 million school-age children in the country, including around 574,000 in the Islamabad Capital Territory, were in need of regular deworming.

She expressed satisfaction that the Islamabad Deworming Initiative successfully treated 200,320 children in its first round of mass deworming in 2019, with a target of treating 574,000 children in the second round.

Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood said deworming of children would ensure their improved physical and cognitive growth, resistance to infections and positive school performance.

He said the Education Ministry in collaboration with a non-governmental organization (NGO), Sight Saver, had finalized another project to check vision of schoolchildren and provide them free eyeglasses, besides treatment at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), if necessary.

Parliamentary Secretary for Planning Kanwal Shauzab said the initiative was in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of addressing the health challenges of children, including malnutrition and stunted growth.

She urged the parents to send their children aged 5-14 years to their nearest government or private schools on January 23, 2020 during school timings for free and safe deworming medicine.

Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid said malnutrition was a big challenge for the country with the highest mortality rate in the region.

She said according to the World Health Organization’s estimates, Pakistan was a ‘high-burden’ country for its population infected with intestinal worms, also known as soil-transmitted helminths.

For the initiative, the World Health Organization has provided deworming drugs (Mebendazole 500 mg) through its donation programme.