Prevalence and intensity of soil-transmitted helminth infections of children in sub-Saharan Africa, 2000-18: A geospatial analysis

01 Jan 2021


Driven by global targets to eliminate soil-transmitted helminths as a public health problem, governments have rapidly rolled out control programmes using school and community-based platforms. To justify and target ongoing investment, quantification of impact and identification of remaining high-risk areas are needed. We aimed to assess regional progress towards these targets.


We did a continental-scale ecological analysis using a Bayesian space–time hierarchical model to estimate the effects of known environmental, socioeconomic, and control-related factors on the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths, and we mapped the probability that implementation units had achieved moderate-to-heavy intensity infection prevalence of less than 2% among children aged 5–14 years between Jan 1, 2000, and Dec 31, 2018.


We incorporated data from 26 304 georeferenced surveys, spanning 3096 (60%) of the 5183 programmatic implementation units. Our findings suggest a reduction in the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminths in children aged 5–14 years in sub-Saharan Africa, from 44% in 2000 to 13% in 2018, driven by sustained delivery of preventive chemotherapy, improved sanitation, and economic development. Nevertheless, 1301 (25%) of 5183 implementation units still had an estimated prevalence of moderate-to-heavy intensity infection exceeding the 2% target threshold in 2018, largely concentrated in nine countries (in 1026 [79%] of 1301 implementation units): Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.


Our estimates highlight the areas to target and strengthen interventions, and the areas where data gaps remain. If elimination of soil-transmitted helminths as a public health problem is to be achieved in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, continued investment in treatment and prevention activities are essential to ensure that no areas are left behind.