One Pill Helps Millions of Children Stay in School

Children in Ghana

Children in Ghana receive Vermox thanks to Johnson & Johnson and AmeriCares. Photo credit: Lauren Camp, AmeriCares.

When school starts in Kumasi, Ghana, students receive pencils, books and a little white pill — Vermox. The pill kills intestinal parasites that rob children of nutrients, creating weakness and even malnutrition. Treatment is simple and effective: Regular doses have been shown to increase school attendance, improve health and even boost earnings during adult years.

“Intestinal parasite infections are harmful to a child’s growth and development,” says Dr. Julie Varughese, AmeriCares medical officer. Children are infected by playing or walking barefoot in parasite-infected soil or by eating parasite eggs in contaminated soil or food.

Though treatment with a single pill once or twice a year may seem simple, real challenges exist in reaching the thousands of communities where children are most at risk. Johnson & Johnson has donated pharmaceutical and other healthcare products to AmeriCares for over 30 years because of its extensive network of global health partners. In 2014, J&J donated 24 million doses of Vermox (known generically as mebendazole) to AmeriCares to treat intestinal worms in vulnerable populations and communities. In the first year of the program, AmeriCares distributed doses to health partners in 16 countries, including Afghanistan, Armenia, Ghana, Honduras, Liberia and Nicaragua. The program will continue in the coming years.

“To promote better health of children, mebendazole is the most important drug in Afghanistan,” says Dr. Mohammad Amin, head of pediatrics at Afshar Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, which received 48,000 doses. “We highly appreciate those who provide this drug to Afshar Hospital.”