By Stephen Macharia
About 1.4 million Kenyans suffer from jigger infestation even as poverty and poor hygiene escalate jigger infestation countrywide, Ahadi Kenya Trust CEO and anti-jigger campaign champion Dr. Stanley Kamau has told Health Business magazine.
According to the Ministry of Health, about 25 percent of Kenyans, mainly children, people with mental illness and the elderly stand at risk of infestation.
However, Ahadi Kenya has a dream to eradicate jiggers in Kenya by 2030 even as the organization plans to establish a robust jigger and research center in Kenya.
“We hope to open a jigger research center and museum before the end of next year. The facility will create more knowledge on prevention, cure and treatment of jiggers, said Dr. Kamau.
Ahadi Kenya hopes the center will reveal trends in jigger infestation as well as develop a knowledge hub on cure and prevention of vermin infestations.
“This Museum will be one of a kind and will boost jigger eradication efforts in Africa,” says Dr. Kamau.
Kamau notes that severe jigger infestation causes disability adding that Ahadi Kenya Trust has created partnerships with government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to eradicate jiggers in the country.
“Our partners play important roles such as the provision of medical fumigation materials, shoes, food and other donations to the victims. Ahadi Kenya Trust works with over 3800 volunteers spread across the country. We also have offices in almost every county in Kenya,” adds Kamau.
The Ministry of Health recognizes jiggers (Tungiasis) as “an important but neglected public health problem in Kenya.” and describes jigger infestation as an “entomologic nuisance” that “does not receive much attention. It is a problem that is debilitating to those affected, but which the medical profession and the scientific community neglect.”
In 2014, the government launched National Policy Guidelines on Prevention and Control of Jigger Infestations in a bid to accelerate the eradication of jiggers in the country.
“The document provides information on the prevention, control and elimination of jiggers in the country. The guidelines also emphasize on use of not only efficient but also affordable jigger elimination methods,” adds Kamau.
Kamau further notes that it costs an average of Sh3,000 to treat one person infested with jiggers. He adds that besides medication costs, Ahadi Kenya Trust fumigates homes of people suffering from jigger infestation.
Poverty is a big challenge to the eradication of jiggers. It is not enough to treat somebody, there is a need to sensitize people on proper hygiene standards to avoid recurrence of jiggers in a home once we treat people,” Kamau clarifies.
Ahadi Kenya Trust has directly served over one million people since inception in 2007.