Dignitaries Help COMPASS’ De-Worming Efforts

August 27, 2008


The COMPASS gathering that drew 500 people in June from the Gwarzo local government area in Nigeria’s Kano state was no small feat. They included dignitaries who came to witness the administration of de-worming medications to primary students in public and Islamiyya schools, lending the effort legitimacy amid false rumors the medications are harmful to children.

In all, 25 girls and 25 boys from the area’s 37 COMPASS supported schools received de-worming medications from local dignitaries. The symbolism was important in the effort to de-worm an additional 434,560 students in this community.

The dignitaries who attended included Gwarzo’s district head, Alhaji Shehu Kabiru Bayero, the secretary of the Local Government Education Area, Alhaji Garba Sarki, the Local Government Area Community Coalition Forum Chairman, Mallam Abdullahi Sani, and a representative from the Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, as well as the Chairman of the Gwarzo Local Governance Area council, Alhaji Sunusi Muhammad.

Intestinal worms are a scourge on children in developing countries; they cause unimaginable physical pain and are a source of school absenteeism and set backs in learning gains. Yet providing de-worming medications to children in the north of Nigeria requires winning consent from local officials and religious leaders. In the past, efforts to inoculate children have resulted in widespread rumors that children were being sterilized.

“Allowing the dignitaries to give the children the de-worming drugs signaled to the community that local leaders had bestowed their blessing on COMPASS’ de-worming activities,” said Semere Solomon, the project’s director.

COMPASS – the Community Participation for Action in the Social Sector project – is designed to provide interventions to schools that promise the greatest returns for expanding access to basic education for Nigerian students across the three states of Lagos, Kano and Nasarawa. The COMPASS basic education strategy also includes a school health and nutrition component that provides Nigerian students with de-worming and micro-nutrients which promote their physical wellbeing and make intellectual development possible.

Creative Associates International, Inc. of Washington, D.C. implements the basic education component of the COMPASS project along with the Nigerian government and four Nigerian and four international partner organizations. The nine-partner COMPASS project is led by Pathfinder International and supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The de-worming initiative has so far treated all 31,100 children in Gwarzo’s COMPASS schools (17,200 males and 13,900 females). Because the health interventions have been so successful, schools that have not been integrated into the COMPASS network are requesting these benefits as well and COMPASS is meeting those requests.

So far, 6,525 pupils from non-COMPASS supported schools (4,300 males and 2,225 females) have also been treated. Now the Gwarzo Local Governance Authority – LGA – has directed the Primary Health Care Department to submit a proposal to the Gwarzo LGA for the purchase of albendazole to treat the rest of Gwarzo’s school children. The goal is to have over 95 percent of children in the area treated by the end of this school year.

Winning the cooperation of local dignitaries to administer de-worming medications to Gwarzo’s children helped COMPASS kick off the de-worming exercise on a large scale. The de-worming drugs were leveraged from UNICEF; another major development in donor-to-donor collaboration.

“COMPASS and UNICEF have been working on similar areas of interventions in Nigeria,” said Solomon. “It was found essential for the two to coordinate their efforts and complement each other to better impact those who benefit from those interventions.” UNICEF has provided COMPASS with 1.2 million tablets, he said.

COMPASS’ network of health workers, PTAs, and community coalitions were indispensible in getting the medications to students and winning the community’s trust. To date, 311,460 pupils have been de-wormed. An additional 124,700 are expected to be de-wormed soon.

“The de-worming activity in [Gwarzo] Kano is a clear indication of the community sustaining the project’s intervention,” said Nafisa Ado, COMPASS State Education Specialist.

— Nafisa Ado, Education Specialist, Kano Field Office, COMPASS and Alexandra Pratt in Washington, D.C.

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