Parasitic worms fill the bellies of the children in Liberia, West Africa, a country that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers to be one of the poorest and most worm-burdened nations on the planet.
Whereas malaria deservedly receives attention from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other international organizations, Ascaris worms infecting almost all Liberian children's bellies go untreated, sapping the calories from children's food intake, causing pain, restlessness, anemia and learning difficulties. These worms look remarkably like long earthworms.
One tablet of albendazole chewed every six months is enough to keep the worm burden low and tolerable, according to the WHO. Our charitable organization Trusted Angels Foundation is working with the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia to deworm the 15,600 children in the country's 38 Episcopal schools. Every child will be dewormed on one day in the spring (dry season), and six months later during the rainy season.
It is hard to deny that God seemed to be coordinating the minds of many to focus on deworming the children of Liberia. The deworming project began when we asked for medications from WOWNOW (Wipe Out Worms NOW) during the very same week that two other denominations working in Liberia independently contacted WOWNOW. We are all grateful that WOWNOW, with the help of the Mennonites of Pennsylvania, has already donated an enormous supply of albendazole tablets to initiate this work in Liberia. There are about 2 million children who need this therapy.
Liberia has fewer than 60 practicing doctors for a population of 3.5 million people. Only two pediatricians (one from Nigeria, one from Uganda) are currently in practice in the country, and there is simply no way that they can keep up with the demands. Most children have no access to medical care, so small inexpensive interventions such as deworming end up having great impact on many children's lives.
Trusted Angels Foundation is focused on the education and healthcare of children in Liberia. Our main purpose is to support Bromley Episcopal Mission School -- the only all-girls boarding school in Liberia. Indeed, our initial hope was to simply deworm the 183 girls of Bromley, but the opportunity to treat all the Episcopal schools was immediately made apparent. It is obvious that the needs of Liberian children, disrupted by war, extend far and deep, and we eagerly work to expand God's gifts to as many children as possible. Trusted Angels Foundation also is actively engaged in entrepreneurial support, staking new business ventures in Liberia, including a document delivery service that now serves the capital city of Monrovia, which lacks both mail delivery and fax machines.
-- Kimberly Johnson has been working to resuscitate Bromley Episcopal Mission School for several years. Together with Dr. John Hunt -- a pediatrician from the University of Virginia -- she formed Trusted Angels Foundation, a 501c3 charitable organization. They are both from the Diocese of Virginia.