Cabinet orders fresh probe on botched deworming

Cabinet orders fresh probe on botched deworming
Michael Makuei, Minister of information (photo: courtesy)

The Council of Ministers has ordered another investigation into the botched deworming incident which left over 100 learners from five different primary and secondary schools in Ibba County bedridden.

 The learners from the Western Equatoria State developed complications after swallowing Praziquantel tablets.

This is after a preliminary report that by the Vice President for Service Cluster Hussien Abdelbagi was presented to the council on Friday.

At least three of the children who were in critical conditions were transferred from Maridi to Juba Teaching Hospital on October 4, 2021, when their situations deteriorated after suffering from adverse side effects of the deworming drugs.

The children were given the Praziquantel tablets in a campaign organised by the government and the partner World Health Organization (WHO) to deworm children between the ages of 5 to 16 against bilharzia.

The City Review reported last week that unconfirmed reports allegedly revealed 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. 

Briefing journalists on Friday, Information Minister Michael Makuei said the cabinet had recommended another committee to be formed to investigate the incident.

“The preliminary report which has been presented is ok but we need the final report to come from the ground so that necessary action is taken to prevent happening of such things in future,” said Makuei on Friday after the Council of Ministers meeting.

Makuei urged health professionals to first examine children before giving them such medicines to know their capacity and whether they deserve to be given the drug.

“According to the preliminary investigations, this was just because of overdose. Some of the children were just given the medicine without first knowing the [details]; so there was a question of overdose,” he said.

“In addition to that also, some of the children took the medicine on an empty stomach and this caused the overreaction to the drug,” Makuei added.

Generally, malaise, headache, dizziness, abdominal discomfort with or without nausea, rise in temperature, and, rarely, urticaria are some of the side effects of Praziquantel tablet. 

Such symptoms can, however, also result from the infection itself. Such side effects may be more frequent or serious in patients with a heavy worm burden.

“Instead of this medicine being served anyhow, actually the children should have first been tested so that you know that this child is sick and [he] deserves to be given the medicine and if given a medicine you must make sure he has eaten something. Number two, you make sure you give him the right dose but all this thing did not happen and as a result; all that took place happened,” Makuei stressed.