New Delhi: In a bid to tackle the countrywide public health threat of intestinal worm infections in children and related morbidity, all states and Union territories conducted the National Deworming Day on Saturday, as mandated by the Union ministry of health and family welfare.

“The National Deworming Day will mobilize health personnel, state governments and other stakeholders to prioritize investment in control of Soil Transmitted Helminth (STH) infections one of the most common infections," said J.P. Nadda, Union health minister said at an event in Gurugram on Saturday.

“It aims to create mass awareness about the most effective and low-cost STH treatment administering albendazole tablets. The tablet has no side effects and in case the dose gets missed, MoHFW carries out mop-up sessions, to ensure no child is left out. Along with albendazole administration, behaviour change practices in terms of cleanliness, hygiene, use of toilets, wearing shoes/chappals, washing hands etc. is also important to reduce incidents of re-infection," he said.

The National Deworming Day is a single fixed-day approach to treating intestinal worm infections in all children aged 1- 19 years, and is held on 10 February and 10 August each year.

Having conducted five rounds of National Deworming Day since February 2015, the mass deworming programme aims to reach all children at schools and anganwadis with the deworming treatment. Any child not dewormed on National Deworming Day due to absenteeism or sickness, will be dewormed on mop-up day, 15 February.

“Anganwadi and school-based mass deworming programme is safe, cost-effective, and can reach crores of children quickly. Deworming has been shown to reduce absenteeism in schools; improve health, nutritional, and learning outcomes; and increase the likelihood of higher-wage jobs later in life," a health ministry statement said.

As directed by the health ministry, in addition to including government and government-aided schools and anganwadis, all states made special efforts to reach out-of-school children, who are most vulnerable to worm infections. Private schools across the country, since they have high enrolment of children, also joined the programme.

To prepare for National Deworming Day, teachers and anganwadi workers were trained to administer the tablet to children, while ASHAs and other functionaries will generate awareness and mobilize children to be dewormed on the day. Other ministries and departments from Panchayati Raj, youth affairs deployed their resources of panchayat members, youth volunteers and other community based groups to engage communities towards a worm free India.

Deworming may have very few side effects and some children, especially those with high worm infections, might experience nausea, mild abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fatigue.