Getting the jump on jiggers

A couple of years ago, while I was traveling in Uganda, I thought that I had a blister or a plantar wart on the end of my little toe. I even bought new running shoes to try to remedy the situation.

Little did I know.

When I was sitting on a patio in sandals, one of my African friends looked at my foot. “You have a jigger.” he said. I pooh-poohed this suggestion but he insisted. ” I know jiggers. When I was a kid I had so many of them. Sometimes when I was going to fetch water, I would sit down and cry because my feet hurt so much.”

I was surprised when my friend “delivered” this cyst full of jigger eggs out of the tip of my right pinkie toe.

“I can cut it out for you.” he offered.

He could have started that sentence with “I’m no doctor, but …”

So as he whittled away at my toe, extracting a lump that was the size of a small kernel of corn from the tip, I learned about jiggers.

Jiggers (quite different from chiggers) are little fleas that live in the soil. They are a common plight in East Africa. The female finds some flesh into which she can burrow and produce hundreds of eggs which are encased in a cyst-like structure that gradually grows within the flesh of the host. Eventually the cyst bursts and the eggs scattered back into the dirt where the cycle starts again.

These fleas live in tropical environments where people are often barefoot or wearing minimal footwear. In addition, traditional homes and even schools and churches often have dirt floors, the perfect environment for the jiggers to flourish. Children’s feet in crowded, dirt-floored classrooms are particularly vulnerable to infestation.

The CanAssist African Relief Trust learned of this plight for children in the Hope for Youth School near Mukono Kenya. The teachers insisted that cementing the floors of the classrooms would help eliminate this scourge. So, with money raised by the children at Sweet’s Corners School near Lyndhurst, Ontario, CanAssist set about cementing the floors of the Hope for Youth School.

The children of Sweet’s Corners Elementary School helped their African counterparts by funding the cementing of school floors to prevent jiggers.

The children at Hope for Youth school were happy to show me their healthy feet after the classroom floors had been cemented to prevent jiggers.

With development projects it is often difficult to evaluate outcomes. But for this one it seemed relatively simple.

I had the school check the feet of all 107 children in the classrooms before the flooring was installed. 74% of the kids had jiggers and more than half of these had more than three in their feet. A few months after the floors were cemented, I was in the school and personally checked the feet of all the same children. The prevalence of jiggers went from 74% to 7%. The children were delighted.

The cost of this project was in the range of $1500  It brought relief to over 100 children and also demonstrated that cement floors that can be washed and swept can stop a jigger infestation.

A letter from Africa

One of the three completed latrines that will dramatically improve sanitation for students at the Mutundu School in Kenya – funded by CanAssist African Relief Trust

I am happy to share this letter of appreciation from Michael Gichia who has been the African contact with the Murera Community Empowerment group and the Mutundu School where the CanAssist African Relief Trust has funded construction of new latrines and provision of clean water.

See these earlier posts for background on this project.

Sanitation…or lack of it
Sanitation..making progress
Not just new latrines

Dear John,
I hope you are doing fine as we are here in Kenya. I would like to let you know that we have completed the proposed project successfully and I’m taking this opportunity on behalf of MCESO to thank all the trustees, board members, staff and the friends of Can Assist African Relief Trust for their generosity in support of our project titled, provision of clean portable drinking water and construction of enhanced sanitation facilities in Mutundu primary school in Ruiru District 0f Kenya. Your financial commitment has incredibly helped and has allowed us to reach our goal. We would like to let you know that your financial inputs towards our proposed project have greatly helped the project turn into a successful and replicable model and the situation at Mutundu pry school has improved from worst to best.

We pray that may God keep continue giving you good health as well as good will to keep on helping marginalized communities.Please find attached our end project for your files.Too, we have kept all the project invoices safe.We look forward to submitting another project proposal to Can Assist African Relief Trust soon.

Thank you once more and God bless.
Sincerely,
Michael.

Read Michael’s full report on this project here.

Mutundu school latrines

Before and after photos of the boys latrines at Mutundu School. In addition to the latrines, sanitation has been improved by the construction of handwashing stations. CanAssist has been delighted to have funded these sanitation improvements.

Canada Day in Africa?

We may have been busy celebrating Canada Day in Canada but would you imagine that it is a special day in some African communities as well?

I received some great pictures from the Hope School in Kenya this week.  This school is the one I blogged about last week – the Canada Day Challenge.  I spoke with the Director of the school on the weekend and advised him of the generous donation from the Sasamat foundation towards classrooms at the school and he was ecstatic. 

“We will all celebrate Canada Day and the generosity of your Canadian friends at the school on Monday when I announce this gift to the staff and students.”

Children at the Hope School in Mbita Kenya, celebrating Canada Day 2012.

On Monday the children gathered to celebrate their Canadian sponsorship and express appreciation. With home-made signs they gathered for juice and acknowledgement of the help their Canadian friends have offered. 

But there are Canadian flags flying elsewhere in East Africa as well, thanks to CanAssist.  

A group of CanAssist supporters recently returned from a visit to Uganda and sent me photos of their trip. Included was one of the Canadian flag that flies proudly over the school compound.  When I visited the school last year, the principal laughed and said “That Canadian flag is made of nylon and it flies well in the breeze. Our Ugandan flags are heavier material and it takes much more wind to get them going.  So Canada is always brightly represented even when our flags are limp.”

The St Gorety Secondary School receives a Canadian Flag, and support for two new classrooms at the school.

When I visited the St Gorety High School in Nyatike District of Kenya last year, I took with me a flag for the school – one that was sent by Virginia Puddicombe, a teacher at KCVI in Kingston.  Virginia also sent along photographs and letters from Canadian students to their counterparts in Kenya and the Africans have sent greetings back.  A kind of pen-pal relationship has begun. We hope that, in this digital age, some face-to-face interaction can happen through Skype and the Internet.

While we proudly celebrate Canada here, there are people around the world who also pause to be grateful for the generosity and support that Canada and Canadians offer to them.  

Oh, Canada!

P.S.  We have raised about half the $2500 necessary to get the Sasamat promise of another $5000 for the Hope School. If you have not yet takent the opportunity to help us reach this goal in July, more information about how to contribute is available on the CanAssist Hope School web page.

The children at Hope School celebrate Canada Day in appreciation of the generosity of their friends in Canada who have supported the school.