Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The parasite keeping millions in poverty

By Daisy Carrington, for CNN
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
According to Kenya's Ministry of Health, 1.4 million people are infested with jiggers, a debilitating foot parasite. Around 80% of those affected are school-aged children. According to Kenya's Ministry of Health, 1.4 million people are infested with jiggers, a debilitating foot parasite. Around 80% of those affected are school-aged children.
HIDE CAPTION
Saving Kenya's feet, and future
Saving Kenya's feet, and future
Saving Kenya's feet, and future
Saving Kenya's feet, and future
Saving Kenya's feet, and future
Saving Kenya's feet, and future
Saving Kenya's feet, and future
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jiggers is a debilitating foot parasite
  • It prevents millions of children from attending school
  • Kenyan businessman Stanley Kamau had jiggers, and is working to fight it

African Voices is a weekly show that highlights Africa's most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera. Follow the team on Twitter.

(CNN) -- One of the most debilitating medical conditions in sub-Saharan Africa isn't fatal. In fact, it's easily curable. The culprit is small, but its impact is big. The chigoe flea, more commonly known as a jigger, typically burrows itself into the feet and hands. It prevents millions of children from attending school, stops farmers from working their land, and makes walking all but unbearable.

Kenyan businessman Stanley Kamau had jiggers as a kid, and he remembers how he was stigmatized by his classmates, for in his school, the parasite singled you out as poor.

"I almost dropped out of primary school because of the effects, because I could not stand the way my classmates laughed at me and used to harass me. They would step on me, and I didn't have shoes," he recalls.



Luckily, Kamau's family owned cattle, and had a cattle dip -- a bath filled with insecticide -- which they used to treat the cows. Kamau cured himself by dipping his hands and feet in the water. He was able to continue his studies, and went on to attend university in India.

After successfully launching a number of businesses, Kamau returned to his home village in Murang'a, where he decided to give back to his community. At first, he simply donated food and clothes, but soon he realized the adverse effect jiggers was having on his fellow villagers.

"I was shocked when I visited some of the homes and saw that some kids had never gone to school, that men and women weren't going to their farms. They were disabled because of the jigger menace."

Kamau set up the Ahadi Kenya Trust, which treats victims of jiggers throughout Kenya. Originally, the trust signed up four families. Today, 2.6 million Kenyans are registered with the group.

Businessman fights disease
Mobile ambulance transforms healthcare

The banana solution

Kamau saw how jiggers entrenches families deeper into poverty. As a solution, he set up a banana farm on a stretch of land donated by his aunt. Jigger survivors can join the farm, and are given free materials, from seeds to fertilizer, to enrich their land back home.

"Every member has to duplicate what we are doing on their own particular farm," he says. "We provide them with seedlings to plant in the communal farm, and give them seedlings to plant in their own individual farm... it's like a learning center where every member of the community can learn more on how to do bananas."

Kamau has expanded the entrepreneurial side of his trust to include chicken and rabbit farming, as well as bee keeping.

The rural ambulance

In his attempt to eradicate jiggers from his home country, Kamau realized how difficult it can be for many living in rural communities to seek medical attention. He heard stories of people brought to hospitals in sacks and wheelbarrows. He even heard about a boy who broke his back in a motorcycle accident while he was being transported to a medical facility for a fractured arm.

"The fact is, most people who live at the bottom of poverty don't have mobile phones, they don't have radios or TV sets, they have no channel of communication. They might not even know what kind of a dispensary or hospital is near them," he notes.

It was then that he developed the ambulance Mashinani -- or village ambulance. It's basically a detachable bed -- complete with a medical and maternity kit -- that hooks onto a motorbike.

"You can have a hospital, but are people able to visit? Are they able to walk? Are they able to call? Are they able to even have information on those types of facilities? Let's not have a very beautiful hospital where people are not able to get access."

Read: Are these Africa's funniest comics?

Read: Saving Uganda's lost children

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
African Voices
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Through a variety of exhibitions including one signed off by the artist himself, Nigeria is presenting J.D. Okhai Ojeikere to the world one last time.
updated 7:39 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
With the help of an army of Tanzania's finest senior citizens, one woman is on a mission to put traditional foods back on the menu.
updated 8:12 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
U.S. response to Ebola is key for setting global example, writes global health advocate Idris Ayodeji Bello.
updated 8:39 AM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
ALHAJI MUSTAPHA OTI BOATENG
Using his deep-rooted knowlege of herbs, savvy entrepreneur Alhaji Mustapha Oti Boateng had an idea to help his fellow Ghanaians.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
One of the most debilitating medical conditions in sub-Saharan Africa isn't fatal. In fact, it's easily curable.
updated 10:00 AM EST, Mon December 8, 2014
Nigerian architect Olajumoke Adenowo reveals her tips for success, mentorship and what she'd like to do next.
updated 6:19 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
Pius Adesanmi: Activist diaspora insists on her story of Africa -- and social media has enhanced its voice.
updated 6:19 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
Developers, designers and big thinkers gather together on the rooftop of the Co-Creation Hub in Lagos to discuss ideas.
Pius Adesanmi: Activist diaspora insists on her story of Africa -- and social media has enhanced its voice.
updated 5:48 AM EST, Mon December 1, 2014
Amos Wekesa has seen a lot of changes in his country. Today, the self-made millionaire oversees Great Lakes Safaris, one of the largest tour operators in Uganda.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
In the largely male-dominated world of the motorsport, South African superbike racer Janine Davies is an anomaly.
updated 1:48 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Athi-Patra Ruga,
For anyone that needs convincing that African art is the next big thing, they need look no further than 1:54, the London-based contemporary African art fair.
updated 9:35 AM EST, Mon December 1, 2014
He's one of Malawi's best abstract artists and now the 40-year-old dreamer is revealing his journey in to the world of art.
Each week African Voices brings you inspiring and compelling profiles of Africans across the continent and around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT