By Ivy Ameka Apetsi
It is around 8am at the home of Veronica Odongo in Ebusyubi Emmutsuru village.
The last time I visited her a year ago, she was putting on a sack-cloth, two worn out dresses and a blanket in a ramshackle mattress hut she calls home. Rats and bats had turned the house into a playground.
Her feet were heavily infested by jiggers and were producing an odious smell. Jiggers have called home in her body for the last six years.
As we helped her sat down outside her ramshackle hut to busk the morning sun, she told us of how her matrimonial husband deserted her and married another woman
She had been left to die on her own and only survived by donations brought to him by Good Samaritans.
But today, she is jovial and you can’t imagine this same woman who had lost speech after being infected with jiggers.
Speaking to the County Guardian News, Ms Odongo said a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) came for her rescue and saved her from the jaws of death.
“For the last six years I was infected with jiggers, I suffered stigma and at one point, my husband married another wife and thought that the jiggers was as a result of a curse,” said Ms Odongo.
According to her, Care for Kenyan Kids (C4KK) treated her of the jiggers’ infection and provided food to her until she was back to her foot.
Caring 4 Kenyan Kids (C$KK) was established by Chuck Mc Donald Foundation which is based in the United States.
“C4KK treated me despite having smelly legs. They were there for me and I want to thank God for them. I can now walk and do my work as usual even my husband who had deserted me for six years now wants to come back,” said Ms Odongo.
Meshack Okonda aged 40 years from Ebusiralo village has been infected with jiggers for the last four years and his wife deserted him after he was infected.
Mr Okonda lost his job as a security guard in a local secondary school since he could not walk.
C4KK) country director Joseck Ang’ana who labored to have Ms Odongo treated she is not the only one whose family members have abandoned him.
Mr Ang’ana said majority of the families blamed the jigger infestation on witchcraft saying those affected are primary going children.
“If you want to end the jiggers infestation is not supposed to be removed, they are supposed to be fumigated. C4KK after treating families infected with jiggers, we cement the floors, donated beddings, food and shoe for them for sustainability purposes,” said Ang’ana.
He said majority of those affected live grass thatched houses made of animal dung. “The floors to the houses are very dusty which makes them a breeding ground for the jiggers,”
“Jiggers affect the normal functioning of the brain in dire cases. This makes victims start to behave like mad people,” Ang’ana said.
So far C4KK has treated pupils with jiggers in over 30 schools mainly in Emuhaya and Luanda sub counties and at least 85 households of between 6 to 7 family members.
The schools are Mumboha Primary, Mulwakhi, Itumbu, Ebusakami, Ebusiratsi primary school among many others.
According to Ang’ana, at least 15 people have died in the two sub counties for the 18 months, adding that the number of those dying from the infestation could be higher than what has been reported.
He said relatives abandon victims, making it hard to report the cases to relevant authorities since they believe that it’s a curse.
The C4KK director now wants Vihiga Governor Dr Wilbur Ottichilo and Luanda legislator Chris Omulele together with his Emuhaya counterpart Omboko Milemba to look onto ways of solving the jiggers.