Five year old Sammy has jiggers. He writhes in pain as the community health worker (CHW) cleans his feet. She then pierces some of the wounds that have already formed with a needle so as to remove the jiggers and their eggs that are embedded under Sammy’s skin. The process is painful but he knows it is the only way he will get better.
Once the cleaning is done and Sammy’s nails have been cut, a mixture of tobacco and “dudu” dust that have been mixed into some jelly is smeared into the infected feet and hands. CHW says that this mixture will help treat the feet and hands and get rid of any jigger eggs that have been left in there. After the treatment, Sammy will receive a pair of shoes and a bottle with some medicine to spray at home. All this donated by Inua Village to Global Foundation.
As the jelly mixture soaks into his feet and hands, Sammy’s eyes are a little clear, except for the slight tremor in his voice. He tells me how his mother wakes up to go and cultivate other people’s farms so as to make ends meet and put food on the table for him and his brother. Three meals are not assured. All in all, he is grateful to God for his family.
He does not remember when he got infected by jiggers, all he knows is that one day his shoes didn’t fit anymore and he could not walk properly because the pain between his toes was too much to bear. When I reminded him of his earlier cries, he gives me a small sad smile and says “I am better now, I just hope I don’t get them again.”
Sammy’s jigger story is only one among the many other stories of adults and children being treated today at the ant-jigger campaign being run by Inua Village to Global Foundation together with its partners.
It is heartbreaking and sad that there are similar stories around the country of children who can’t go to school due to pain inflicted by the jiggers. Statistics show that about 10 million people in Kenya are either infected or affected by jiggers.
To completely rid out the jigger calamity, it has to be a collective effort by the government, private sector, CSO, health practitioners and the citizens.
As I completed my talk with Sammy, I asked him what he wanted to be, he said he wanted to be a police officer. Why, I asked, because he believes that somehow, he would be able to protect others from jiggers, I smile. That will take a different kind of training but importantly, his heart is in the right place. Sammy the Jigger Police, sounds about right.
The story was captured during Inua Village to Global Foundation’s event on 23rd April 2022 in VihigaCounty,Kenya.
Grace Wendo, Re-Imagining New Communities