Giving Feet a Fighting Chance
One of our big ongoing projects works to treat the problem of Tungiasis (known locally as Jiggers) in Western Kenya. Tungiasis is a flea that lives in dusty ground and buries into the flesh. Left untreated, it can cause immobility, loss of limbs or even death due to secondary infections.
But Tungiasis is easy to treat! In most cases, the feet simply need to be cleaned, soaked in antiseptic and covered with petroleum jelly in order to suffocate the Tunga Penetran. This process is repeated numerous times until the cycle of Tungiasis has ended and the feet have healed. Not owning shoes is also a major contributory factor in this problem continuing, so we make sure everyone treated is also given a pair of shoes, to prevent further infection.
The impact of this treatment is enormous, as when an adult suffers with Tungiasis he or she cannot work, and is often shamed by the local community, left unable to care for their family. The disease is misunderstood and therefore education is crucial, as otherwise it can be seen as a curse, or simply ‘poor man’s disease’. Misunderstanding about the disease causes isolation at a time when support from the community is crucial. The treatment of Tungiasis can therefore restore not just the health but also the entire livelihood of individuals and families.
When a child is treated they are given a pot of petroleum jelly to take home with them, and are told they will only receive another one, when they bring back the empty pot, with evidence that their feet are getting better. This shows it has not been sold and has been used for their own feet and also encourages those receiving help to partner with us for the improvement of their health.
We are pleased to report some amazing statistics of success in treating Tungiasis in our local area in Kenya.
Our regional treatment programmes have continued regularly in the communities of Shivakala, Mundulu and Kabras, where monthly clinics are held at local schools in these three areas. Between January and June 2016, 348 children were treated at these pop up clinics. We have found the number of children infected has dropped by 2/3 since follow up treatment. We have also seen a number of children successfully treated using this method who other doctors and clinics had been unable to help.
We have seen enormous progress in the community of Shivakala, where we have been working to eradicate Tungiasis for the last three years. We have concreted school floors and been running treatment clinics regularly. We have noticed that the number of children with severe Tungiasis in the area has dramatically decreased. Instead of seeing many severe cases, we are now seeing almost none.
Our social care teams are also treating individual adults and children for Tungiasis regularly as part of their community visits. Our social workers (who we also call our ‘Life Changers’) regularly visit remote rural communities, identifying those in need of assistance. They work with particularly vulnerable individuals and families, providing family therapy, health and hygiene education, as well as counselling and general life skills training. Through this ongoing work we have identified and treated 32 adults between January-June 2016 who were suffering with severe cases of Tungiasis. The work has continued at the same pace since June so we are looking forward to our next six months statistics being collated at the end of the year to assess further progress in the area.
Thank you so much to those who have specifically supported this programme, for being part of this journey. So many children have the ability to run, play and enjoy their childhood because of your help. We could not help them without you!