First-Ever National Deworming Campaign Treats More than 5 Million Children and Pregnant Women in Rwanda

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New Global Network Ambassador Tommy G. Thompson Travels to Rwanda to Kick Off Campaign Effort

For the cost of deworming one pet in the United States, we can deworm 180 children in Africa. We have the tools; we need the political will to get the resources to those who need our help

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, the new Global Ambassador of The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, joined Rwanda's Ministry of Health in launching the first-ever national deworming campaign last week in the Nyaruguru District as part of its Mother Child Health Week. The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Earth Institute at Columbia University's NTD/Access Project, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, UNICEF, PAM, World Health Organization, and the Red Cross, dewormed 3.5 million school-aged children, 1.5 million preschool children and 50,000 expectant mothers in 30 districts throughout the week.

In Rwanda, 65% of the population has intestinal worms, the most common infections in rural communities with poor hygiene and limited access to clean water. Intestinal worms cause serious blood loss leading to iron-deficiency anemia, malnutrition, and mental and physical disabilities in millions of children; they are the second-highest cause of all health clinic visits in Rwanda. In addition to the health impact of intestinal worms, just one disease, chronic hookworm infection in childhood, reduces future wage earnings by an extraordinary 43%. Before the NTD deworming control program began, there were no large-scale efforts in place to significantly reduce this devastating affliction.

"For the cost of deworming one pet in the United States, we can deworm 180 children in Africa. We have the tools; we need the political will to get the resources to those who need our help," stated Secretary Thompson. "The joy that I have seen in the faces of the mothers of Rwanda through this new campaign should be an inspiration for us all to unite and act to end the neglect." Secretary Thompson traveled through Rwanda last week as part of his first medical diplomacy mission on behalf of the Global Network.

Mother Child Health Week aims to strengthen the survival of women and children of Rwanda, as well as to empower communities to take ownership of their health. In addition to deworming, interventions distributed last week included immunizations, Vitamin A, mosquito nets, and contraceptive methods for family planning. The event brought Rwanda a step closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

"Mother Child Health Week represents a major milestone for a country that has made tremendous progress in combating HIV/AIDS and malaria. Combating neglected tropical diseases will help unleash the economic and educational power of children throughout Rwanda, promoting peace and prosperity," said Kari Stoever, Managing Director of the Global Network at the Sabin Institute.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University's NTD Program is funded by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. The Global Network was awarded an 8.9 million dollar grant from Geneva Global Inc. in 2007 to control and eliminate seven of the most common neglected tropical diseases in Rwanda and Burundi.

About the Global Network
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, a major initiative of the Sabin Vaccine
Institute, is a partnership dedicated to eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) - the most common infections impacting one billion of the world's poorest people. The Global Network is comprised of international non-profit organizations with decades of on-the-ground experience in fighting disabling, disfiguring, and deadly NTDs. Through strong collaboration with the World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies, and disease-endemic countries, the Global Network works to increase access to inexpensive, effective medicines to improve and save lives. http://www.globalnetwork.org

Members of the Global Network:
Sabin Vaccine Institute
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Helen Keller International
International Trachoma Initiative
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative
The Task Force for Child Survival and Development

About the Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing human suffering from infectious and neglected diseases. Through its efforts in vaccine research, development and advocacy, Sabin works to provide greater access to vaccines and essential medicines for millions stuck in pain, poverty and despair. Founded in 1993 in honor of Dr. Albert B. Sabin, discoverer of the oral polio vaccine, the Sabin Institute works with prestigious institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations to provide short and long-term solutions that result in healthier individuals, families and communities around the globe. For more information about Sabin's research and commitment, visit: http://www.sabin.org.

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