Clinic drug shortage intensifies worm-infected patients’ misery

Too often, poverty renders basic medicines and supplies inaccessible at local clinics. When that happens, easily treatable ailments threaten the lives of young children like 2-year-old Stephen.

By Simon Peter Esaku and Kristy J. O’Hara
Published August 13, 2013 at 06:30am PDT

The illness started slowly for 2-year-old Stephen Maditrwoth.

First, his body temperature began to rise. His mother, 20-year-old Mandaun Marunok, would feel his little head with the back of her hand and know he had a fever.

Then he began to have diarrhea. Soon after, his stomach started to swell.

“Stephen started feeling stomachache. He would lie on his stomach and cry and rub his eyes with his hand,” Mandaun says at their home about 146 miles west of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala.

Worsening symptoms; no accessible treatment

Stephen’s parents first tried treating him themselves. “We bought Stephen tablets for diarrhea,” says his father, Jakisa Diuedonne, 28. After five months, Stephen’s health wasn’t getting better. His bulging stomach was so big that it made his legs and limbs appear disproportionally small.

Jakisa decided to take him to Biiso Health Centre III, a government health center about five miles away. They had resisted taking him there because, like most people in their community, they knew that the free treatment would offer little or no actual help because the center often lacked medicine.

“We receive drugs only once in two months. They don’t come in time, and they are not always enough. That means we run out of supply before the next consignment,” says James Bigabwa, the senior clinical officer-in-charge of Biiso Health Centre III.

“When the people hear that there are no drugs, they don’t come to the health center. At such times, we get as few as 35 patients in a day. When there are drugs, we get as many as 85 a day.”

A persistent, life-threatening problem

Once there, the staff diagnosed Stephen with worms. The clinic happened to have de-worming tablets that day, so Stephen received one of the last available doses to start him on the road to recovery.

But the overall lack of medicine is not a good picture for Stephen and the 155 other people — including 30 children under the age of 5 — who were diagnosed with intestinal worms at the health center between December and February.

James hates sending patients away without medicine. “I really feel sorry for the patients,” he says. “When there are no drugs, we write prescriptions for them all the same and advise them to go buy the drugs from the drug shops.”

James has written a letter to World Vision requesting assistance for medicine, including de-worming tablets. The survival of Stephen and others suffering from intestinal worms depends on such donations.

Learn more

Read about World Vision’s global work to promote health for children, families, and communities in need.

Learn about Beyond 5, World Vision’s advocacy campaign to end the 19,000 preventable deaths of children under age 5 each day.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for young children like Stephen whose lives are put at risk because of easily treatable illnesses — an ordeal no child should have to face. Pray that clinics in their communities would acquire reliable access to the medicines and supplies needed to care for children who are sick.

Make a one-time donation to help deliver life-saving medicines and supplies. Your gift will help us ship and distribute essential medical items donated by pharmaceutical companies — like emergency food, rehydration salts, antibiotics, antimalarial medications, de-worming medication, vitamin A, and more. In many cases, access to these supplies could mean the difference between life and death for a sick child.

Give monthly to World Vision’s Child and Family Health Fund. Your monthly donation will help bring medical care within reach in places of need by providing life-saving resources like vaccinations, medicines for clinic shelves, care for pregnant mothers and newborns, training for parents and health workers, and more.