Kenyans for the fist time officially admitted that jiggers had become a significant health and socio-economic burden as the country inaugurated a National Jiggers Day to create awareness against the parasitic vermin.
The jiggers day, to be marked every year on March 3, will be the first health awareness day not initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Kenya.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta today in Nairobi launched the National Policy Guidelines on the Prevention and Control of Jigger infestation in the country where she revealed that an estimated 2 million Kenyans in 24 counties continue to suffer the debilitating effects and social stigma associated with jiggers
“Another 10 million Kenyans are at risk of infestation, implying that the policy we are launching today could not have come at a more opportune time”, said the First Lady.
She said the jigger menace was not only a socio-economic burden to the victims but to the economy of the entire country.
She said it gratifying that Kenyans have finally come together to address the plight of the long-suffering jigger victims, mostly children, the elderly and handicapped Kenyans.
“I am delighted to lead the nation in launching the National Policy Guidelines on Prevention and Control of Jigger Infestations in Kenya today”, she added
The guidelines have been developed through collaboration of various stakeholders including the Ministry of Health.
“These guidelines emphasize a multi-sectoral approach which addresses underlying causes of jigger infestations, including awareness creation, social support and poverty reduction”, said the First Lady
She identified poverty, neglect and lack of information and awareness as some of the key causes that worsen the jigger menace.
“Unlike other diseases which do not discriminate between social classes, jigger infestations have socio-economic risk factors which include social neglect, poor housing, inadequate water supply and sanitation, and poor domestic and personal hygiene. As such, it is a disease of the vulnerable and neglected households”, she added.
Citing other countries like Mexico which had achieved a jigger-free status after successfully battling with the problem of endemic jigger infestations, the First Lady expressed optimism that the vermin can be eliminated in Kenya.
“There is no reason why Kenya cannot make a similar achievement. I therefore, urge all the concerned stakeholders to do their part, and work closely with each other towards the realization of this national and humanitarian goal”, she said.
The First Lady congratulated Ahadi Kenya Trust and other humanitarian organizations for courageously raising a national awareness campaign on jiggers among the political class and business leaders and for their relentless efforts in helping jigger victims cope with the menace.
The guidelines outline measures of prevention, control and the eventual eradication of jiggers in the country. They are also aimed at strengthening the capacity of jigger control.
The guidelines also advocate the use of pesticides to control jthe pests at the house-hold level. They additionally guide clinicians in the treatment of jiggers besides surveillance of the jigger prevalence in the country.
Some of the serious effects of jigger infestation include inability to walk, spread of tetanus when victims use un-sterilized needles to extract the vermin and amputation.
Uncontrolled jigger infestation leaves behind a stigmatized community of crippled, non-productive highly dependent , over-whelmed , helpless and sickly individuals.
Jiggers can easily be controlled through personal hygiene, eradication of the fleas (vectors) and general well-being .
Those at the launch included Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and his PS Dr. Khadijah Kassachoon, Director of Medical services Dr. Nicholas Muraguri and Ahadi Kenya CEO Stanley Kamau among other stake-holders. Ten Counties were also represented.