These are worms. Not the kind of worms you find crawling in the dirt. These are parasitic roundworms. They live inside a human being's intestines. Each of these worms can grow up to 12 inches long, and there are 200 of them in this jar for a reason, because that is the number you might typically find in the belly of a single infected child.
Worm infections have been around for thousands of years. They have influenced the outcomes of wars, and they have long stymied human health. Roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, schistosomiasis: infections from these species cause pain and discomfort. They steal nutrients and zap energy. They stunt both physical and cognitive growth.
In most cases, these worms may not be fatal, but paradoxically, that's part of the problem. It means that many countries simply have not been able to prioritize their treatment. There's a social cost to that: children without access to deworming treatments have lower rates of school attendance. Adults who grow up without deworming medicine are less productive and have lower lifelong earnings. What intestinal worms do, really, is limit potential.
Currently, there are 1.7 billion people in the world still at risk for worms. Six hundred million of them are in Africa. For every dollar invested in worm control and prevention, African countries see up to 42 dollars return in economic benefits.
The good news is that deworming treatment is extremely easy. One to three pills given once or twice a year is enough to take a child from 200 worms to zero and to protect them from infection going forward. In communities where there's a high prevalence of worms, treatment can be done right at school. This process is extremely simple and fast. In Ethiopia, for example, this is done for 20 million children in a matter of weeks.
The world has come a long way on getting deworming medicines to the people who need them, and African governments want to gain more traction. It's now time to match their ambition.
The END Fund will work with governments to create a plan that drastically reduces the burden of disease caused by worms. They’ll work together to ensure prevention and treatment programs can serve everyone. The END Fund has an audacious idea: they believe we are the generation to end sickness from worm infections forever. The key is not simply to build new programs from scratch, but to amplify the efforts of the programs that are already taking shape. By examining the problem of how worms transmit disease, the END Fund has identified five key areas where they can drive improvement.
Number one: lower the cost of treatment. Many pharmaceutical companies offer deworming medicines for free, so the END Fund works with the right partners to coordinate their delivery. They will continue to secure drug donations for additional at-risk populations. They can now do it for less than 25 cents per child per year.
Number two: focus on prevention. The END Fund calls in the right partners to educate communities on sanitation and hygiene in order to change behaviors around things like hand-washing and latrine use, ensuring people are not continually reinfected.
Number three: invest in innovation. The END Fund has contributed to deworming by introducing innovative techniques that effectively target and treat people. They will test new delivery methods, target the environments where parasites thrive and influence behavior change.
Number four: monitor and evaluate. The END Fund collects detailed data on all programs on a regular basis to help them get better and better over time.
Number five: increase local ownership. At all stages of the process, the END Fund works with government and local stakeholders to encourage cofinancing commitments that support deworming efforts. They also worked with African philanthropists and corporate leaders to partner on these efforts.
There's an incredible opportunity to work together to create a new system for disease elimination for the next decade and beyond. Part of the money the END Fund needs will go directly toward delivering deworming treatments to communities that need it and part will go towards facilitating the handover of programs to local ownership. Together, these efforts will create prevention and treatment programs that are sustainable far into the future. If this plan gets fully funded for the next six years, tens of millions of people will receive deworming treatment. With that, countries will be interrupting the cycle of disease transmission at all levels, and most importantly, people will experience significant improvements in their mental, physical and social health.
Just imagine the potential that will be gained when people can stop worrying about these and can put their energy into things like these. (Students' overlapping voices)
(Clapping and singing)