Jigger infestation affects about 4% of the population in Kenya, especially the poorest households in endemic counties. The government acknowledged its growing effects and gazetted March 3rd of every year as the National Jiggers Day with the objective of increasing public awareness and participation in the promotion of jigger control. This year, it was marked in Kakamega County, Khwisero Sub County, Kisa North ward. The theme was “Jigger Awareness and Elimination is our responsibility.” The event was to celebrate the gains made in the prevention, control and treatment of jigger infestation.
In Kenya, there is an estimated 1.4 million people suffering from jigger infestation, with the highest prevalence rates found in Central, Nyanza, Western, Coast and Rift Valley. Research shows that the most at-risk population cohorts are school going children, the elderly and the physically disabled persons. The jigger flea embeds itself on the skin of the affected persons creating wounds that may allow the entry of bacteria, fungi and viruses which can cause further health problems such as abscesses. Complications arising from jigger infestation are a leading cause of disability, morbidity, and sometimes mortality.
Children severely affected by jiggers loose school hours and can barely concentrate in class as they are distracted by the pain caused by sores on the affected body parts. They suffer stigmatization and discrimination while infected adults have decreased productivity and loss of social capital due to the stigma associated with the disease. The devastating effects of jiggers leads to a vicious cycle of poverty. As such, jigger infestations frustrate Kenya’s attempts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on poverty reduction and reduce the pace of national development envisioned in Kenya’s Vision 2030.
In May 2013, the 66th World Health Assembly resolved to intensify and integrate measures against Neglected Tropical Diseases such as jigger infestation and to plan investments to improve the health and social well-being of affected populations. In the efforts to control the infestation of jiggers in vulnerable population, the Ministry of Health adopts the multi-agency approach and the Private Public Partnership Strategy. The health sector and society at large need to be more proactive in helping infested individuals, households and communities to overcome the jigger infestation and reduce the stigma associated with.
The primary modes of transmission of jiggers include poor housing, poor personal hygiene, spending time in the environment infested by fleas near the ground and sharing accommodation with livestock and poultry. Therefore, concerted effort is needed to help reduce the impact on the country’s jigger infestation burden by adopting the public health mantra of “prevention is better than cure.” This can be achieved by promoting prevention interventions such as advocacy, improved housing, improved personal hygiene and not sharing dwelling houses with domestic animals. Treatment of the affected to break the
transmission cycle can also go a long way in controlling the infestation and reducing the disease burden, not forgetting environmental management to control the fleas.
The celebration was graced by various stakeholders including partners from Ahadi Kenya Trust, County Government of Kakamega, Saraya Kenya, Amref Health.

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