Impact Stories: Sightsavers

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▲ Photo from Sightsavers

Through our Impact Stories blog series, we aim to bring the stories of the people supported by Founders Pledge-recommended organizations to you. This time, we're focusing on those taking part in Sightsavers’ deworming program, which we recommend based on research by our partner GiveWell.

Today, 1.5 billion people globally are infected with intestinal worms and 600 million children live in at-risk areas. Sightsavers is currently working to eliminate two neglected tropical diseases caused by parasitic worms - schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths - in DRC, Cameroon, Guinea and Nigeria. The infections can lead to fever, nausea, diarrhea, pain, malnutrition, organ damage and learning disabilities; untreated infections can even lead to death. Both diseases can be treated cheaply and easily with a single dose of deworming medication - GiveWell estimates that it costs just $0.92 per year to deworm a child through Sightsavers’ program.

Children are particularly susceptible to worms, so medicines are distributed at schools and to children unable to attend school, such as those with disabilities. Children are also educated on the importance of good hygiene to prevent infections. Healthy children are less likely to miss school, so deworming can have a positive impact on their education.

Below are the stories of Bomam Otto, headteacher, and Ngo Ndombol Norbertine, a 10-year-old pupil at a school enrolled in the deworming program.

Bomam Otto, Headteacher, Ecole Publique Village School

“My name is Bomam Otto, I am the Headteacher for the Group 1 Ekite pilot village school, in the DA2 district, Littoral Region [of Cameroon]. At today’s date, there are 480 pupils. We have five classrooms [and] nine teachers, including myself, that are in charge of the everyday security, teaching and learning of these children.

Bomam Otto and his pupils during morning assembly. Image courtesy of Sightsavers.

The problems we usually have are children who complain about having diarrhea [and] tummy aches. And through our partners, which are, for example, parents’ associations, we ask them from time to time to have their children de-wormed at home.

So, from this situation, it must be said that from the government’s Public Health Ministry a deworming campaign is organized every year and it often bears fruit such as the rate of diarrhea/tummy upsets falls dramatically at school at those times, simply because there is a strong deworming campaign in schools.

Before being trained, I knew already that there are hookworms, roundworms, pinworms, [and] this type of worms that can be found in the gut and in the stomach and that destroy the health of very young children; when they are not treated, their tummy is bloated, they have headaches, they have diarrhea.

We were invited to attend the training. And at this training, there were experts from the Health Ministry and partners of Sightsavers... they have shown us... everything that needs to be done to ensure this deworming campaign is successful and how children must feel after this campaign, whilst also informing us of the side effects.

We have received technical training on how to use measuring sticks, how to give tablets, age, height, weight, and to evaluate side effects, who to refer to, how to fill the forms, for all these diseases, without forgetting schistosomiasis. We often talk about schistosomiasis, we tell small children not to defecate anywhere or pee in the water, to not pee anywhere so much so that when it rains, what we call torrential rains, they carry worms or microbes either in the water or contaminate the air, so any small child can catch them because they wash in dirty water and that’s how one can easily catch schistosomiasis.

This deworming program is an opportunity for me to thank the government for its action. This government action through the Ministry for Public Health and the Ministry of Basic Education, which is our line ministry, in partnership with Sightsavers, which supports the government’s action, help the government fulfill one of its foremost missions, that is to ensure healthy lives for everyone, above all of the little ones, this youth that is said to be spearheading the nation. So, this is an opportunity for me to thank the people who initiated this project and I congratulate them.”

Ngo Ndombol Norbertine, school pupil

“My name is Ngo Ndombol Norbertine. [I live] with my parents and brother and sister. I’m 10 years old. My little sister is 5. My little brother is 7.

Ngo Ndombol Norbertine during class. Image courtesy of Sightsavers.

I go to the pilot village Group 1 school. I have been going to the school for 2 months. I like my school because I am with my friends, I play all I want, I’m learning to read, to write, and my teacher gives me homework. I do it as it should be done.

I like grammar, I like maths, I like history and geometry. I like history because I study the slave trade. I study what my great, great, great parents… how White people treated them.

I have taken [the deworming medication]. It went well. I did not throw up. I did not have a tummy ache anymore. I no longer had diarrhea. I have had worms before. I did not feel well. I had a fever. My tummy was reeling, I was throwing up, I had diarrhea.

I hope to become a teacher, to teach my children’s children.”

How you can support Sightsavers’ work

In 2019, Sightsavers treated more than 5.9 million people for intestinal worms, and trained more than 269,000 local volunteers to distribute medication through mass drug administration to treat a range of neglected tropical diseases.

If you would like to improve the lives of children and help eliminate these tropical diseases, we highly recommend giving to our Global Health & Development Fund, which makes regular grants to high-impact organizations like Sightsavers working to end global inequalities in health, wealth and opportunity.