National deworming campaign under way

Medical teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo have begun to travel to the farthest-flung corners of the country in an effort to give 12.5 million children deworming drugs and vitamin A.

“The aim of this campaign is to reduce the mortality rates of children under five years of age who die in large numbers of avoidable parasitical diseases,” said Bania Mayambu, the director of DRC’s national nutrition programme, Pronanut.

According to UNICEF figures for 2007, just over half a million children under five die every year in DRC and 108 of every 1,000 babies born do not live beyond their first year.

“Mebendazole is the drug we are giving to children to try to halt large-scale mortality, which is mostly due to avoidable afflictions, to parasitical diseases and malnutrition,” said Banea, citing intestinal worms and anaemia in particular.

Because of the poor state of many roads in DRC, health workers can reach some remote areas only by bicycle or pirogue.