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WHO welcomes GlaxoSmithKline support to fight intestinal worms in children

Statement by WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan
9 September 2011

Today, WHO acknowledges the generous commitment by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to donate 400 million more deworming tablets - albendazole - a year over the next five years to help children in deprived communities. This donation comes on top of the 600 million tablets of albendazole already being used in the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis.

WHO commends today's donation, which will help in providing wider coverage for the millions of children worldwide who silently suffer from the prolonged effects of intestinal worms.

Soil-transmitted helminthiases, commonly known as intestinal worms, affect more than 800 million children worldwide, most of whom live in impoverished settings.

These worms produce a wide range of symptoms, which include problems such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, general malaise and weakness, which may affect impair physical growth in children and reduce their learning abilities. Hookworms cause chronic intestinal blood loss and lead to anaemia.

Children infected with soil-transmitted helminths pass parasite eggs in their faeces. Especially in communities where there are no latrine systems, the soil and water become contaminated with faeces containing worm eggs.

WHO's control strategy involves regular annual deworming of preschool and school-age children. Periodic treatment reduces the intensity of infection and protects those already infected. The World Health Assembly Resolution 54.19 urged countries to provide essential drugs in all health services in endemic areas particularly to children and women. We aim to reach the minimum target of providing coverage to 75% of all school-age children at risk.

With today's donation, we can now look forward to achieving the ambitious goal of 75% global coverage for children. WHO is firmly committed to providing treatment to all children in all endemic countries.