News: U.S. military contributes to Kyrgyz de-worming conference
Story by Staff Sgt. Carolyn Viss
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Three U.S. military medical experts including two colonels from the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, attended a conference here on mass de-worming April 2 to contribute American health care concepts to the program this country has successfully started and plans to continue.
Navy Capt. James Radike, M.D., deputy commander for clinical services in Kandahar, Afghanistan; Air Force Col. Jerry Flyer, 376th Expeditionary Medical Group commander; and Air Force Lt. Col. Tyler Sanders, 376th EMDG administrator, cooperated with international organizations during the conference. Captain Radike came to Kyrgyzstan from his current deployed location specifically to speak at the conference.
"When a person is infected with helminthes [worms], they could have symptoms ranging from stomach problems, to anemia, fatigue, and other illnesses," Flyer said. "For a child, this can be especially devastating, resulting in poor growth and development, malnutrition, frequent ailments, and multiple absences from school."
According to statistics presented by the Parliament member of Kyrgyzstan, Derbisheva Gulnara Tolubaevna, 80 percent of parasitic diseases occur in children.
"Of course, when our children fall and have an injury, we can see this problem; but parasites are [invisible]," said Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Kyrgyzstan Tinaliyeva U.M. They affect memory, growth, and many other aspects of children's development.
"It doesn't matter what diet they have, because a parasite is a parasite," said Mambetov M.M., Minister of Health of Kyrgyzstan.
Nevertheless, prevention methods may include boiling drinking water, making and utilizing proper toilets, and hand washing, said Tobias Shyut, Swiss Red Cross coordinator in Kyrgyzstan. Part of the Red Cross' initiative against parasites here is making and distributing cartoons that are easily understood and interpreted, which depict proper and improper sanitation — "do's and don'ts" for the community to follow.
"We really hope ...the treatment of this issue will be integrated as part of the national nutrition program and strategy," said United Nations Children's Fund Deputy Representative of Kyrgyzstan, Fajae Msefer Berrada.
Parasitic disease is a problem for local administrators to deal with as well as the healthcare system, according to the Minister of Health. Water supplies, infrastructure, and mass media, are things to consider as the governors and mayors help combat this problem.
In the last year, Kyrgyz officials have provided medicine and de-worming efforts in Batken and Osh oblasts.
"Twenty-four percent of Osh residents do not use proper water sources," said Gulmira Erkulova, vice mayor. Additionally, there needs to be a much greater emphasis on using proper hygiene for school age children.
In the coming year, the U.S. government and Transit Center at Manas will contribute financially to the de-worming project in order to reach the entire nation, according to Soltan Mammadov, Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation regional coordinator.
Tests to find the pesky, often microscopic critters are not very expensive; they just require a good microscope, said Radike, who presented a section on "New Methods and Approaches on Diagnosis of Parasitic Diseases." They must be performed on fecal material, but other than wearing gloves and having a good tile or slide to view the feces on, tests are fairly easy to perform.
Giving one single dose of Albendazole is the best choice for de-worming here, Radike, himself a father of three, affirmed. He applauded the government's use of this treatment pill.
One pill normally costs 72 com [which is just less than two U.S. dollars in today's economy], according to Mambetov. The Transit Center plans to contribute 3.4 million pills obtained at a reduced cost of about 10 cents apiece. One anti-worm prescription can be used to treat the four most common parasites.
According to his statistics, two million individuals have been de-wormed so far in Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
The key strategy of all the partners involved — Transit Center at Manas, the U.S. Embassy, Kyrgyz Parliament, UNICEF, RVF, Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and Science, MOH KR, local governors and mayors, the State Medical Academy, Swiss Red Cross, Ministry of Education and Science and State Sanitary Epidemiological Department — is to provide a stable implementation of the program, Mammadov said.
The goal is for this program to become sustainable.
"We would like to show them how to prevent and treat [parasites], and our most important goal is the health of the people," Mambetov said.
"This is going to pay off in huge dividends within your lifetime," Radike said.
The next step, in addition to obtaining and distributing the prescriptions, is for the Transit Center to help organize a "train the trainer" program for the labs and will be involved in some of the follow-up testing and conferences, Sanders said.
"Children are our future," Flyer said. "Together, we can and we must improve this situation. That is what this de-worming program is all about."