Intestinal worms drain the life out of children

Children like Samuel need life-saving deworming medication. Tragically, because of poverty, these drugs are often in short supply in places where they’re desperately needed, leaving many children in pain and at risk of death.

Story and photos by Simon Peter Esaku, World Vision Uganda
Published April 26, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

Samuel, 3, groans from stomach pains. He cannot even bend over because his little belly is so swollen.

Intestinal worms have invaded Samuel’s tiny body.

Pain, swelling, severe weight loss

Worms and other intestinal parasites can invade a child’s body through in a sip of dirty water, bare skin, or even food.

“His stomach was big as if it was full. It looked like it was going to burst,” recalls his uncle and guardian, Haruna. Samuel lives with his uncle and aunt in western Uganda.

Not only do the worms cause Samuel pain and discomfort, but they also rob him of vital nutrients.

“At three years…Samuel was weighing about [11 pounds],” says Samuel’s aunt, Esperance. He should weigh about 30 pounds.

Left untreated, illness from these worms can prove fatal.

Drugs in short supply

Worm infections are common in this region due to poor sanitation and dirty drinking water. Typical worm infections include round worms, hookworms, and tape worms.

Deworming treatment is free of charge at government health centers, but drugs are always in short supply. Some patients don’t even go to the health centers because they know there are no drugs available.

“We receive medicines once every two months, but even then, they arrive late and are not enough,” says James Bigabwa, senior clinical officer at Biiso Health Center III, a government health facility in western Uganda.

James has written to World Vision to request a donation of drugs.

“The number of patients suffering from worms overwhelms the supply of drugs,” James explains. “When there are no drugs, we write prescriptions…and advise them to go buy the drugs from the drug shops. Some buy, others can’t.”

A game of chance

Esperance and Haruna had no idea Samuel was suffering from worms.

“We used to buy him medicine ourselves because we knew that even if we took him to the government health center, there would be no medicine,” Esperance admits.

But Samuel’s swollen stomach persisted for four months. Desperate, Esperance took Samuel to the Biiso Health Center III, about five miles from their home.

Fortunately, the deworming drugs were available for Samuel.

However, for many other children suffering from worms or other parasites, it’s a game of chance, and many lose.

How you can help

Pray for children like Samuel who are vulnerable to intestinal worms and parasites. Pray that the needed medicine would be available to cure children of this uncomfortable and potentially deadly illness.

Make a one-time gift to help provide medicines and supplies. Thanks to donations from our generous corporate partners, your donation multiplies 10 times in impact to help ship and distribute vital medications and supplies in places of poverty where they’re needed most.


  • In developing countries, children like Samuel, 3, are susceptible to intestinal worms from dirty water and even food.
  • In areas of poverty, the medications that can easily treat these types of infections are often unaffordable or unavailable.
  • World Vision distributes donated medicines and supplies to clinics in these areas, where basic items are often in short supply.

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