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Jiggers infestation- a story that needs change

 Jiggers continue to be reported as a major public health problem in Uganda, particularly Namutumba district. They have become a community horror increasing poverty and social exclusion of the affected people and sometimes leading to death.

Jigger infestation is one of the neglected public health problems in Namutumba District affecting about 21% of the district’s population. Jiggers are a leading cause of disability, morbidity and sometimes mortality, particularly in the elderly, women and school age children. There is hence  an urgent need to step up efforts by all stakeholders and fight this scourge.

ActionAid Uganda’s Busiki LRP working with Namutumba Local Government has stepped up its efforts towards the eradication of jiggers during this year’s sanitation week.

The Busiki team ran its first series of school parades and inspections last week. Pupils  were taught  the importance of embracing good hygiene practices as a way of preventing jiggers which often affect their academic performance.

One of the pupils, Bernard Mugoya, in primary six spoke about the acute pain he went through when he suffered from jiggers.

“Walking to school was a nightmare. All the insecticides my father bought did not help, I had to be pierced to remove the jiggers”, he states with tears welling in his eyes.

Bernard’s story  shows the  need for continued public education on jiggers as most people do not know how to effectively deal with the problem.

Most people in the community still think that  jiggers are  a cultural curse.

According to the Chief Administrative Officer, Muhuta Auntore, there is need for collective responsibility by all major players in educating the communities.

“There is need to educate our people to put aside the traditional beliefs and superstitions and work towards health.  This campaign will definitely go a long way in achieving that objective,” said the CAO.

Uganda is one of the countries where jigger infestation is endemic and it is said to have killed at least 20 people in 2010 and made over 20,000 sick. 9 out of 12 of the most affected districts are found in Busoga sub-region, with Namutumba District having one of the highest prevalence of the disease  The campaign continues this week in Nsinze, Kibaale and Ivukula sub counties.