The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has pledged £430 million to improve education in the world’s poorest countries. Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases welcomes the commitment to get over one billion children in some of the poorest countries in school, but believes we must remove the barriers – such as ill health – that prevent this. School health programmes, such as deworming, are key to this.

Thoko Elphick-Pooley, Executive Director of Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases,  said:

“Whilst we welcome the UK Government’s commitment to get over one billion children in some of the poorest countries in school, let’s not forget, for this to be a reality, children and especially young girls who are at higher risk of disease need to be healthy. Over one billion children worldwide are at risk of intestinal worms.  It has been shown that deworming school children increases school attendance and raises future earning potential by 20%. And all of this for a pill that is freely donated by pharmaceutical companies so only costs 50 cents to deliver to the mouths of children. A small price to pay to protect our future generations from parasitic worms that have been conclusively shown to impair a child’s ability to learn, concentrate and grow. 

What is disturbing is that many of these drugs are already waiting in countries ready to be delivered to schools. However, because of the recent UK aid cuts these drugs now risk expiring and never helping those children that need them the most. 

If the UK Government is serious about getting the world’s most vulnerable children into school, we must remove the barriers that prevent this, school health programmes such as deworming are key.”

Ahead of next month’s Global Education Summit, co-hosted by the UK and Kenya, Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases is calling for G7 to embed school health programmes into financing commitments for education programmes.