How a 50 Cents Deworming Pill May Help End Global PovertyApproximately 24% of the global population, or 1.5 billion people, suffer from intestinal worms. Approximately, 835 million children in need of treatment. These worms, known as soil-transmitted helminths, are most prevalent in middle and low-income countries. Schoolchildren living in areas with high rates of intestinal worms often miss school or cannot focus due to their poor health. As a result, this negatively impacts their ability to effectively learn and thus perpetuating the cycle of disease and poverty. Consequently, treatment for these parasites (as known as deworming) is one of the top priorities in world health. Luckily, a deworming pill is cost-efficient and accessible to people.

The Fifty Cent Treatment

Widely considered the miracle drug of deworming, albendazole is incredibly cost-efficient at the low cost of 50 cents per pill. Additionally, there are no known side effects if uninfected children are treated. This means pills do not need to be administered by medical professionals, further driving down the cost of the treatment. In fact, the medication is far cheaper than testing. This makes mass treatment the most effective way to help those in areas with lots of parasites. As such, both the World Health Organization and scientific consensus encourage giving pills to large numbers of students living in hotspots twice a year.

Economic impacts

A new analysis of this policy has shown that this treatment may have economic impacts on communities and people to a surprising degree. In the mid-1990s, Harvard researcher Michael Kremer visited Kenya and conducted a study analyzing how providing a 50 cent pill twice a year to students in extreme poverty can affect their future income. He returned to the area years later to gauge how treated children and untreated children compared in their later lives. His results were groundbreaking. According to his analysis, the pill increased the treated students’ future income by 13%. On top of this, it reduced dropout and absentee rates by a fourth (28% to 21%). In addition, it increases the number of girls able to attend high school by nearly 10%. These new findings have pushed deworming as a viable and cost-effective strategy to improve global health and global living standards.


However, the analysis of deworming policies is incredibly complex, and many scientists are doubtful of the results of the study. Most prominently, an article published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2015 called into question the form of aid itself. The article claims that there is evidence that this type of treatment doesn’t have a substantial effect on patients. Thus, it will not economically benefit communities. This study later gained some traction among the scientific community. Additionally, the outcomes of this analysis have since been replicated. Moreover, some cite other factors as potentially causing the impressive numbers from the high temperatures at the time of the study increased the number of parasites and infected children to the fact that this is only one study.

Future Policymaking

Despite these prevailing questions and doubts about the study, the sheer inexpensive nature of the pills makes this form of aid a worthwhile effort. Despite the controversy, this pill would still be one of the most cost-effective policies to boost enrollment in schools. For many governments and organizations, that chance is worth taking. In particular, the Deworm the World Initiative partnered with many governments to provide treatment to over 280 million children in Kenya, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria and more. On top of this, the study’s findings prompted the Kenyan government to expand deworming programs to cover all elementary students in areas with high concentrations of parasites.

These studies and subsequent policy changes have provided evidence to support the impact of deworming pill on impoverished communities. Even with the scientific controversy surrounding the effectiveness of the pill, this form of aid remains one of the most cost-effective ways to help lift people out of poor conditions. In addition, it may help millions of students around the world gain an education and improve their quality of life.

– Elizabeth Lee

Photo: Flickr

USAID's support for children
Among the groups that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to support, children across the world are a top priority. From health-related aid to education opportunities and protection from violence, USAID’s support for children employs a variety of means to help kids survive and grow despite poverty and other adversities.

USAID Addresses Preventable Child Mortality

An important aspect of USAID’s support for children is access to medical assistance. An overwhelming 75 percent of child deaths under the age of five results from newborn deaths and treatable diseases: pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. These illnesses could be effectively countered by timely low-technology treatments, which USAID attempts to provide on the local level by bolstering public-private engagement and promoting Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM).

USAID strengthens iCCM programs that train and assist with local community members treating children. Such programs provide vital medical care on the ground in communities that are often hard to reach. USAID helps construct sustainable networks of monitoring and evaluation, clinical referral, supportive supervision and more, which in turn ensure the functioning of iCCM programs.

A USAID-supported iCCM program in Zambia led to a 68 percent early treatment rate of childhood pneumonia. USAID’s efforts to treat malaria have reached millions of children in Tanzania alone, where 70,000 people die from the disease annually. Within a decade, simple preventative action and treatment by community health workers have contributed to a 28 percent decrease of child mortality rate.

USAID’s Support for Children: A Comprehensive Action Plan

USAID’s efforts to help children around the world are not limited to medical care. USAID, together with other U.S. government departments and agencies, launched the ambitious and comprehensive five-year U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity in 2012. Backing the plan is Public Law (PL) 109-95, signed in 2005 to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which asks the U.S. government to effectively respond to vulnerable youths in low and middle-income nations.

USAID’s support for children is wide-ranged and well-coordinated under the Action Plan, focusing on the value of investing in boys and girls in order to achieve long-term economic and social progress. Among those receiving aid are children affected by HIV/AIDS, those living outside of family care, those who have been trafficked, those under sexual violence or exploitation and more.

Interventions employed by the Action Plan are evidence-based, meaning they are both effective and instructive for further action in the future. Such actions include improving the families’ socioeconomic status, rescuing youths suffering from the worst forms of child labor, promoting protective family care and protecting the education of both children and their surrounding communities.

According to the most recent annual report for Congress, the plan has reached millions of young lives since 2012. Understanding the significance of nutrition, especially in the first thousand days of life, USAID and Food for Peace sent food assistance to approximately 20 million children in 61 countries with funds from Fiscal Year 2015. Children separated from their families in 11 countries received help from USAID to return to family care.

Effective Utilization of the Private Sector

Many of USAID’s support for children take place in the private sector, via public-private engagement as well as recent “development impact bonds.” Public-private engagement is manifest in USAID’s Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (SHOPS), which increases the ready supply of diagnostic and treatment-related products. The program works with local manufacturers and importers and also informs health workers regarding the appropriate use of medical knowledge and tools.

In December of 2017, USAID launched a new development impact bond for India, the Utkrisht Bond, that mobilizes private capital to make improved healthcare accessible to 600,000 women, aiming to save up to 10,000 mothers and their newborns. With private capital enabling an initial investment, USAID and Merck for Mothers will only follow up with its $4.5 million commitment after the development goals are realized, ensuring the effectiveness of aid.

Innovative, sustainable and replicable efforts such as these are consistent with USAID’s mission to help developing countries so that they eventually grow out of the need for aid. Continued assistance from the U.S. agency will ensure that millions of children around the world are given the help they need for a better future.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr