This past May, 47 participants, including representatives from six Western Pacific countries, the World Health Organization (WHO), USAID, non-governmental organizations, the STH Advisory Committee and Johnson & Johnson, attended a technical assistance workshop sponsored by Children Without Worms. Read the full article, and learn why Dr. John Ehrenberg, Director of Communicable Diseases for the Western Pacific Regional Office of WHO, described the workshop as a “landmark” meeting.
(Attendees from countries around the Western Pacific region gathered at CWW’s Technical Assistance Workshop to discuss issues related to soil-transmitted helminthiasis control. Photo credit: K. Gallo.)
In late May, Children Without Worms (CWW) sponsored a two-day technical assistance workshop in Manila. The workshop brought together countries in the Western Pacific region to share experiences and dialogue on critical issues regarding comprehensive control of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH).
The workshop was described as a “landmark” meeting by Dr. John Ehrenberg, Director of Communicable Diseases for the Western Pacific Office of the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Ehrenberg said “never before had so many partners from different sectors in the region come together around STH control.” The 47 participants included representatives from Ministries of Health and Education of six Western Pacific countries, the WHO, USAID, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the STH Advisory Committee, and Johnson & Johnson.
The primary objective of the workshop was to provide a platform for countries to share best practices for managing mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns and integrating activities around improving access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to prevent reinfection. Country program presentations and discussions indicated a range of maturity levels in the programs in the region; some have been deworming for years, while others are just beginning. Those just starting their deworming programs were encouraged to apply lessons learned from mature programs, such as Cambodia’s school health curriculum and Lao PDR’s Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and Education to institute its School Health Task Force. Countries were also encouraged to share and adapt available information, education, and communication (IEC) materials. Presentations by NGOs featured examples of resources that have been made available to national STH control programs, such as support for school-based WASH activities.
Stakeholders at the Workshop also expressed concerns about the sustainability of STH control programs stemming from the possibility that partners might eventually withdraw and redirect their support. The discussion on program sustainability resulted in the following action items:
- Include advocacy strategies in National Plans to secure long-term government funding and resource allocation.
- Strengthen collaboration with local partners, including NGOs, rural health authorities, and parent teacher associations.
- Integrate NTD Mapping with Resource Mapping. Resource Mapping should include availability of water and sanitation facilities.
- Implement monitoring and evaluation (M&E) activities to provide evidence of impact and thereby, support advocacy efforts.
The workshop provided a very good opportunity to introduce and discuss the M&E guidelines for STH control programs in the second edition of the WHO Guidelines for Helminth Control in School-age Children. Key components introduced in the new guidelines are the establishment of sentinel sites, collection of data on infection intensity, and proposed benchmarks for scaling down MDAs. Participants agreed that the new M&E guidelines addressed many of the key issues. However, guidelines may require ongoing revisions as more data from the field become available. Participants also recommended including WASH indicators in the M&E guidelines.
By the close of this landmark meeting, workshop participants had engaged in a meaningful and productive dialogue surrounding STH. One participating organization’s comment summed up what many participants expressed about the workshop, “[The workshop] opened our eyes to what is happening [in STH control] locally and outside of [our country]. We learned many things that will help shape the program in our country and set the stage for sharing the practices that will allow us to all achieve the goal to control STH and other neglected tropical diseases.”
CWW is very pleased with the turnout and the outcome of the Western Pacific workshop. It raised many exciting questions and ideas that will be further explored in future workshops. Regional workshops also enable CWW and its stakeholders to address areas of special interest for each region. The next Technical Assistance workshop is scheduled to be held for the Southeast Asian region in Dhaka, Bangladesh this September. View the draft agenda.