I met a 13-year-old girl in Haiti today who suffers from an upset stomach and digestion problems. Her name is Nadeje, and she has a bright smile and proclaims she likes French class. I saw Nadeje at a crowded private school, where World Concern was distributing memendezole pills. Nadeje was happy to take one of the little white pills – because she believes it will make her stomach feel better. More than likely, it will.
The little white pills kill intestinal worms, and she probably has some. About 40% of children do – often in poor countries. The worms not only sap energy, but cost girls like Nadeje much of the value of food.
Nadeje was one of a couple hundred Port-au-Prince schoolchildren in blue uniforms to receive the pills today. They clamored over each other to receive their tablets, which dissolve in their mouths.
World Concern humanitarians distribute about 6 million Tylenol-sized mebendezole deworming pills every year, handing them out in about a dozen poor countries. The pills kill parasites that enter through contaminated water, food – or even bare feet. The deworming medication is a simple and significant impact on the life and future of a child.
We call the pills the 44 cent cure because a year’s worth of mebendezole costs about 44 cents. It’s two pills, six months apart, with a vitamin A supplement and a lesson on personal hygiene.
After the distribution, I spoke with the principal of this elementary school. She expects the vast majority of students have had worms at some point, and believes the medicine is key to good health and the ability to learn.
Poor families in Haiti already struggle to afford basic food. When you add parasites into the equation, good nutrition becomes a bit ridiculous.
The 44 cent cure is not the whole answer, but help with that too – clean water, latrines, health education.
At the very least, the pills are a fantastic start.