When Ahadi Trust declared that they were dedicating their energies on an anti-jigger campaign, a lot of people put their efforts down to the many money making ventures posing as Non Profit Making Organizations. Miss World Kenya 2005 Cecilia Mwangi’s active involvement was taken as the Paris Hilton dumb blonde syndrome. Or the silly things that beauty queen hopefuls sometimes say they’ll do to change the world. But with the success of the anti-jigger campaigns, people realized that beauty and brains actually mix very well. This young lady has done more. She blends beauty, brains and guts – the ability to get out there and do something.
Few creatures on earth can cause as much torment and anguish for their size as the tiny jigger. These bugs are not only a nuisance but a health hazard too. Usually the female burrows into the skin, mostly feet and then lays it’s eggs there causing swelling, itching and pain. Severe infestation can cause deformity and there is the risk of secondary infections like tetanus or even gangrene. In some cases victims end up with deformed toes and loss of toe nails. In more extreme but rare cases, jiggers have been known to cause death. Thankfully, Ahadi are on the ground in the most affected areas providing counseling and surgical instruments to clinics and dispensaries. For these victims, even just a bottle of Dettol antiseptic is a big blessing.
Treatment is basically surgical extraction of the parasite and this unfortunately raises the scarier problem of spread of HIV through sharing of pins and needles by victims when trying to extract the bugs. People and especially children afflicted by these bugs are often stigmatized and end up with very low self esteem. They can hardly walk let alone play and as such their schooling is interfered with. Many end up dropping out of school and never finding decent jobs, hence spinning the poverty cycle even more.
Majority of Kenyans who grew up in urban areas have no idea what a jigger is. It’s a long forgotten pest that is wrecking havoc in some rural areas as has been exposed by Ahadi Trust. Although it affects many parts of the country, Murang’a District in Central Kenya seems to have borne the brunt of the jigger menace. And the leaders, some of whom probably had a jigger or two in their childhood, forgot about it too. When the topic came up for discussion on the floor of the house after awareness created partly by Ahadi and partly by the media, the Government had no data on jigger prevalence.
But now the word is spreading really well. Bloggers too, who by the way are becoming a very powerful medium in Kenya are also taking time to highlight the problem. It has also caught the attention of parliamentarians with Kalonzo Musyoka donating Kshs.100,000/- towards the campaign and Kenyans living in London pledging a similar amount. With enough dedication from the right quarters, there is every indication that the problem will soon be history.