Jiggers in Kenya

Jiggers in Kenya

The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation has disclosed that over 1.4 million Kenyans are infested with jiggers.

According to Senior Public Health Officer in charge of Vector Control and Environmental Health Peter Wanjohi. Central, Western, Coast, Rift Valley and Nyanza provinces are the most affected areas.

Jiggers in Kenya
Jiggers in Kenya

Speaking during Inter agency coordinating committee workshop held at Farmview Hotel in Busia town. Mr Wanjohi blamed the high rate of jigger infestation on poverty, poor housing and sanitation.

Participants at the workshop included provincial public health officers from across the country, university students, teachers and other related agencies.

He said children under the age of 10years, the elderly and the physically. And mentally disabled persons were among the groups that were most vulnerable to the jigger infestation.

He added that the menace had become ‘a major cause of infirmity for the elderly in affected populations€™.

“Jigger menace is causing disfiguring of feet which mostly affects the walking of victims in endemic areas,” said Wanjohi.

He cited poor housing with dusty floors. Poor personal hygiene practices such as infrequent washing of feet. And poverty as some of the factors that influence jigger infestation.

He added that there was need for urgent behavioural and sanitation interventions to control the problem.

“Physical provision of proper housing and modification of existing structures such as plastering of walls and smoothening of floors with cement mortar, slime or cow dung are vital in helping to control infestation,” he said.

He reiterated the need for the public to be provided with information that would help avoid infestations.

He suggested that community-based organizations or school health sessions disseminate messages of personal hygiene house to house.

Wanjohi said although spraying of infested households and pets with insecticides has been on-going, the activity has been unsustainable because of stigmatisation, lack of community participation in planning, implementation and evaluation in the fumigation and treatment programmes.

With over 2.6 million jigger infested Kenyans registered by Ahadi Kenya Trust, I can say jigger infestation is of great concern. Many people have been suffering from jigger infestation in silence. No comprehensive survey has been carried out, making it difficult to give the actual number of those affected.

But the effects of jigger infestation are not vague. With school going children dropping out of school, and the spread of HIV/Aids among the infested through sharing of pins and other removing equipment; these are but just a few of the effects of jiggers infestation. Jigger victims also have to deal with stigmatisation and ridicule, being unable to exercise their voting rights due to disability, poverty and in extreme cases, death.

Jigger infestation, caused by poverty and subsequently lack of proper hygiene, has so far claimed the lives of over 265 people in the last two years. There is no doubt this number could be higher, as most cases go unreported.

Lack of political goodwill has been one of our biggest challenges in the fight against this menace, as political leaders feel embarrassed to come out and talk about jiggers. But our partnership with the Government ministries, especially the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, has boosted the Anti-Jigger campaign. The media, corporate bodies, religious organizations, opinion leaders, as well as support from individual well wishers has been overwhelming.

Through the support, Ahadi Kenya Trust has experienced the joy of witnessing children who previously could not walk return to school, and adults who relied on handouts become engaged in income-generating activities. To date, they have treated and fully rehabilitated over 3000 people.

In Kenya, all the eight provinces have reported cases of jigger infestation, with a few isolated cases in Nairobi province. Our neighbouring countries have not been spared either, and are seeking our assistance. As we look forward to completely eradicating jiggers in Kenya by the year 2015, plans are also underway to take jigger eradication campaigns to other African countries soon.

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Sabina Kamene