Abdelbagi leads delegation to probe botched deworming in Ibba County

Abdelbagi leads delegation to probe botched deworming in Ibba County
Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi Akol (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Vice President for Service Cluster Hussein Abdelbagi will head a delegation to Western Equatoria to investigate the recent incident of botched deworming that left 135 pupils hospitalized in Maridi Hospital over the weekend.

The pupils were admitted after allegedly receiving excess deworming tablets known as Praziquantel during a mass drug campaign by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) against bilharzia in Ibba County.

Most of the victims aged 5 to 16 years were still responding to treatment as of yesterday and four of them who were in critical condition were airlifted to Juba Teaching Hospital for further medical attention on Monday.

Speaking of The City Review on Tuesday, Executive Director and Acting Commissioner of Maridi County, John Ekikia, said the area governor Alfred Futuyo would also arrive in the county to access the situation.

“The governor will arrive today [Tuesday] in the evening and the Vice President Hussein Abdalbagi will arrive tomorrow [Wednesday] morning in Maridi. This is a big delegation,” said Mr. Ekikia.

He added, “The reason for the visit is because of the school pupils who were given an overdose of bilharzia tablet and it affected about 135 of them. Their situation is unstable up to now.”

Schools affected include Ibba Girls Boarding School, St. Peter Primary School, Hope Primary School, and St. Luwang Primary School.

On Monday, the founder of Ibba Girls Boarding School Nagomoro Bridget threatened to drag WHO to court over the matter. The school is also affected.

Unconfirmed reports alleged that untrained individuals, including teachers and members of the community, were selected to administer the drug to children based on their height and physical appearance, resulting in an overdose of the Praziquantel tablet. 

Efforts to contact WHO for comment were unsuccessful. However, the organization earlier said symptoms exhibited by the pupils were signs of the drug-fighting the parasite.

“The side effects are also another indication that the child had a parasite in the body. So they are being cured by the medicine,” said Dr. Mutale Nsakashala, WHO technical officer for Neglected Tropical Diseases as quoted by Eye Radio.

In its 21st list published in 2019, Praziquantel tablet was among the over 460 medications the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines considered to be most effective and safe to meet the most important needs in a health system.

Currently, the Ministry of Health is implementing the first phase of the mass drug campaign project in seven of ten counties in Western Equatoria State, three counties in Eastern Equatoria, and one county in Western Bahr el Ghazal State.