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De-worming program reaches grassroots Kyrgyz communities
ISSYK-KUL, Kyrgyzstan - Community members in Issyk-Kul gathered in local administrative buildings and schools to get medication - just one tablet - to free themselves of intestinal parasites Sept. 23. More than half of Kyrgyzstan's population is affected, but will be treated thanks to efforts by the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Health, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense through the non-profit Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Buzanowski)
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Transit Center helps in the fight against parasites

Posted 10/31/2010   Updated 10/31/2010 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Buzanowski
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

10/31/2010 - ISSYK-KUL, Kyrgyzstan -- Men and women gathered their children and met at schools and government facilities in the Issyk Kul region last month to receive medication that will kill the intestinal parasites living inside digestive tracts of family members.

Transit Center donated $500,000 to the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Health via the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation to help Kyrgyzstan achieve its goal of de-worming the entire population of 4.5 million people. The funds paid for, 3.2 million medicine tablets, along with training for health care specialists and public awareness campaigns about the free treatment.

Last year, the U.S. State Department funded treatment of 1.5 million people in the Osh and Batken regions with a success rate of 95 percent as part of Kyrgyzstan's pilot de-worming program.

Although parasites are not life threatening amongst adults, they plague growing children with malnutrition - stunting their growth. It also robs them of the concentration and stamina needed to participate in school, said Col. Alan Reid, 376th Expeditionary Medical Group commander who said this is why the country will de-worm children for a second time, later next year.

Colonel Reid and Staff Sgt. Joie Manog went to Issyk-Kul Sept. 23 and saw three villages administering the medication as part of a site survey with Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation leaders. Mr. William Amoss, Executive Director, and Mrs. Kiija Manty Miller, project officer, of Washington, D.C., flew in from inspecting other de-worming efforts in Central Asia the same day to meet up with Dr. Soltan Mammadov, Executive Director for Azerbaijan and Central Asia.

Dr. Mammadov described how he saw well-dressed, old men accompanied by their grandchildren on their way to receive medicine. "It looks like it is holiday for these people. When we asked these people where they are going, their faces were full of joy. 'We will get free tablets against worms, our children will be healthy and happy' they answered," said Dr. Mammadov. "We were happy and proud that we can contribute to the health of all these people in this country."

He explained that each community was educated with posters, literature and videos to explain the parasite problem and how simple the treatment was prior to healthcare workers distributing the medicine. These materials explain how easy it is to transmit the parasite from person to person and the best ways to prevent this from occurring. Cleaning hands properly and only drinking from safe water sources are the best way to prevent re-infection.
One chewable, mint-flavored Albendazole pill will stun and kill pin worms, round worms and whipworms allowing them to be expelled from the body. About half of the country's population is infected with these soil-transmitted organisms.

The Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation director said such a simple, effective, quick and inexpensive treatment makes a world of difference. "It's very heartening to go out in the field and see this program make a difference at the grassroots level. Intestinal parasites are such a problem for the general population, especially kids, who cannot thrive if their bodies are full of worms. After taking the medication people feel better within a few hours. The smiles on people's faces when we greet them say it all," said Mr. Amoss.

A detailed pre and post-treatment lab study by Kyrgyz health care personnel will make it possible for long-term program stability by Kyrgyzstan. The capital city, Bishkek, is scheduled to be de-wormed before the end of the year, which will conclude the first of two rounds of nationwide deworming. According to the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation website, Kyrgyzstan will pay for 20 percent of the follow-up round of de-worming for school children that will conclude in March 2011.

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