The jigger flea is becoming increasingly prevalent across East Africa, residing in dry soils that are common in these countries. The parasite burrows into exposed skin (notably on the feet) causing swelling and itching. Once attached, the jigger flea can increase up to roughly 2000 times its original size eventually dying in situ with its caucus rotting under the skin. The more people infected, the quicker the infection spreads as the female flea requires a host to lay its eggs, which it does so hundreds at a time.
Jigger infection thrives where living conditions are precarious, such as in rural villages or shanty towns of major cities. Repeated infection results in disfigurement and mutilation of the feet leading to impaired mobility. Not only does this negatively impact quality of life and household economics, but prolonged immobility can motivate stigmatisation. Children with jigger infection are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and show a disproportionately high rate of absenteeism in school.
Jigger infection currently affects 1.4 million people across Kenya alone amounting to 4% of the population.
Current methods of treatment are painful and distressing for children and adults alike. Sole Support works with communities to give healthcare advice for early prevention and provide footwear, at affordable prices, to mitigate infection.