Jiggers (tunga penetrans), commonly known as chigoe fleas, small insects which look like fleas, are the culprits in an epidemic which causes parts of the body to rot. They often enter through the feet and once inside a person’s body, they suck the blood, grow and breed, multiplying by the hundreds. The affected body parts - buttocks, lips, even eyelids - rot away.
In 2013, IRFF served 21 different locations of Uganda promoting health, and empowering villages in income generating activities through sustainable agriculture. This included removing jiggers from children’s feet and hands at 5 schools and 12 communities in Iganga and Masaka districts. Over 2300 people were attended to, 250 pairs of shoes were given to those whose parasites were removed. Jiggers have caused death to over 50 people and the closure of 4 primary schools recently. A talk on hygiene was conducted in each location, and the team guided teachers and elders concerning the improvement of sanitation.
The health ministry identifies where the most seriously afflicted communities are and alerts IRFF, and then the team responds to their request whenever able. IRFF UK currently sends a small monthly budget for this project. The local government, local churches and leaders have invited us to their communities indicating how greatly our services are required but we are handicapped by our limited resources and therefore many are left to suffer or die.
There is a great need for the removal of jiggers (most of those affected are children and the elderly) and providing soap and shoes. When the team visits each community, they teach classes on hygiene, sanitation and sustainable agriculture.
The youth need to get introduced to sustainable agriculture, for securing household food and income which would help alleviate the absolute poverty in the region. In addition, IRFF offers counseling to young people suffering from HIV/AIDS, and helps others prevent catching the disease by working alongside another charity, WAIT. Internal support is given to young people to make wise decisions about their lives.
IRFF UK has a 5 year plan to eradicate jiggers as much as possible from the regions we work in - Kampala, Masaka, Rakai, Jinja and Iganga regions.