KISUMU, Kenya (Xinhua) — U.S. President Barack Obama’s grandmother on Sunday launched a free anti-jigger campaign to residents of Siaya County in Western Kenya who have been greatly infected with the pest.
The 91-year-old grandmother through her Mama Sarah Obama Foundation which has partnered with Kenyan anti-jigger campaign Ahadi Trust said she wanted to ensure that the menace does not affect education of the young children.
Speaking when she launched anti-jigger campaign and shoe distribution in Siaya county Sarah challenged the government to step up the war on Jiggers rather wait for help from donors.
She said the government has the capacity to eradicate the disease but was reluctant and waiting for foreigners for assistance which come late when the damage has been done already.
Hundreds of children have dropped out of school as a result of stigma associated with the jigger and also inability to walk to school in Siaya County particularly in Nyangoma Kogelo village.
“Although jiggers’ infestation is a serious threat to the welfare of the children in this country, there is lack of political good will from the government to eradicate it, they have the capacity to eradicate it by small allocation,” said Sarah.
She said it was pity that the government has ignored issues of jiggers despite its widespread effect across the country.
“Jigger is everywhere, it is not only in our village but one cannot find medical assistance at the government facilities, that shows neglect,” said Sarah.
Sarah noted that effect of jiggers had spread across many villages even those not thought to be infected and it is high time that the government start to step up its efforts in reducing the jiggers.
She also called on the county governments to ensure that they set aside funds to fight the jigger menace.
She made the remarks during anti-jigger campaign at Senator Barack Obama primary school sponsored by Ahadi trust in partnership with Mama Sarah Obama foundation where over 500 were treated for the menace.
The Foundation is a charitable nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the education and welfare of disenfranchised children in order to help them successfully achieve their goals and have a better future.
Ahadi Kenya trust director Stanley Kamau also echoed her sentiments saying the spread of the disease was to be blamed on lack of support from the government.
He said jiggers has infested over 2.6 million Kenyans translating to 6 percent of the total population with the highest prevalence rates found in Central, Nyanza, Western, Coast and Rift valley Provinces.
“The effects of jigger infestation are not vague. With school going children dropping out of school, and the spread of HIV/Aids among the infested through sharing of pins and other removing equipment,” Kamau said.
He said lack of political goodwill has been the biggest challenges in the fight against the menace, as political leaders feel embarrassed to come out and talk about jiggers.
Siaya county Governor Cornel Rasanga said his government will allocate funds to improve on the welfare of the poor as parts of efforts to help eradicate jiggers.
“For us to tackle jiggers we need to tackle poverty, Siaya county has allocated 235,000 U.S. dollars which were want to devote to a trust account for the improvement of welfare of our people so as to improve their standards of living and subsequently eradicate jiggers,” said Rasanga.
Mama Sarah Obama foundation and Ahadi trust are set to distribute shoes to all school going children in Siaya County.