From Mark Krajnak, Manager, Corporate Communication, Johnson & Johnson
April 7th is World Health Day. Late last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua for a story we were working on for the Johnson & Johnson 2009 Annual Report and I had the chance to see how Johnson & Johnson is working to keep children free of infection.
The story, which you can read here, focuses on Fernanda, an active fourth grader who lives her family in Jinotepe, Nicaragua, about an hour or so away from Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. But while Managua is very hustling and bustling and where most travelers go, Jinotepe is less visited but gives one a true taste of the culture and heritage of the country.
Unfortunately, Nicaragua is one of the second poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and that’s what puts children like Fernanda and her brother Luis, at risk for infection with soil-transmitted helminths, or STH: roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.
About 400 million children worldwide are at risk of infection. Found mostly in tropical and subtropical areas, STH is caused by a lack of clean water and sanitation. When Fernanda, and her little brother, Luis, are infected, they are listless, tired and don’t want to eat.
It’s quite easy to see how kids like Fernanda and Luis can get infected – if conditions aren’t sanitary, children get infected through contaminated food or when larvae penetrate the skin in the case of hookworms.
Johnson & Johnson is working to help defeat this infection. In 2005, Johnson & Johnson partnered with The Task Force for Global Health to create Children Without Worms (CWW), the first program to focus solely on global treatment and prevention of STH. Through CWW, Johnson & Johnson donates a deworming medication, mebendazole, which Fernanda and other kids receive on a yearly basis at school.
When I had the chance to visit with Fernanda and her family a few weeks before Christmas, they were all healthy and happy. Fernanda has a smile that lights up a room and Luis, like any 3 year old, doesn’t stop moving. Whether riding their bikes, playing on the swing set or kicking a soccer ball, they bore no trace of infection.
It was an eye-opening trip for me. And it was great for me to meet children like Fernanda and Luis who are directly affected by the work that Johnson & Johnson and our partners, like The Task Force for Global Health and CWW, do every day.