The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 400 million children worldwide suffer from intestinal worms. A common problem associated with world hunger, intestinal worms prevent a person’s body from absorbing nutrients. In fact, they daily hijack up to 25% percent of the nutrients consumed by already-malnourished children.
To put the problem into perspective, intestinal worms pirate about 50,000 tons of food each and every day. And in countries where children may only get one meal a day, it’s a pretty big problem to have ¼ of the nutrients from that meal blocked from doing the child any good.
How do people get intestinal worms?
Soil-transmitted helminthes come from – you guessed it, the soil. So children who have no shoes, which is common in developing countries, are susceptible to picking up a variety of different kinds of worms … a problem that could be solved through the use of latrines, washing hands before cooking or eating and by wearing shoes.
Water-borne parasites get into a person’s body through contaminated water – by bathing, washing, drinking, in the preparation of food or the consumption of infected food. These kinds of infections require that the water be decontaminated through various means. Food for the Hungry (FH) helps reduce the use of contaminated water by helping communities build wells and cap springs. We also teach families about sanitation and hygiene.
The impact of intestinal worms
Intestinal worms produce a wide range of symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, listlessness and weakness. These severely impact children, affecting their ability to learn and impairing physical growth.
In the areas we go, dirty water, lack of sanitation and poor hygiene result in almost every child being infected with parasites. Malnutrition and even death can result. The good news is that, on average, it costs about a nickel to deworm a child. Treatment keeps a child healthy for six months or until clean water and sanitation become available.
How you can help
You can help FH combat intestinal worms by donating to our development work and by helping us ship deworming medications. Here’s a great example of the good you can do.
Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, little Michelle was 15 months old but weighed only six pounds! She lacked the energy even to lift her head as healthcare workers sceptically examined her.
“They had very little hope she would survive,” says Claude, a Food for the Hungry staffer in Haiti.
Michelle’s mother died months earlier, so her grandmother did her best to provide. But she didn’t know to wash her hands before feeding Michelle. As a result, parasitic worms robbed up to 25% of what little Michelle ate.
Michelle and her grandmother received deworming medication, and the transformation in both of them is astonishing! Here are before and after photos of Michelle.