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First War, Now Elephantiasis

30/01/2012

Africa, Health, News, Uganda

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 23:55 PM EDT, 30 January 2012

UGANDA – When I was a child I first encountered a person afflicted with Elephantiasis when we moved to Nigeria. I wrote about this encounter in my post The Road to Naijiriya which details my arrival in Lagos as we embarked on our new life in Ile Ife.

Now, this disease is once again in the media as health services in Southern Africa have alerted the region to the need for increased preventative measures and prophylactic treatment options.

The 20-year civil war in Uganda has left severe scars on the economy, infrastructure, health and human services, and most of all on a populace that no longer has access to basic necessities such as potable water, food and medical treatment.

Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as Elephantiasis, “afflicts over 25 million men with genital disease and over 15 million people with lymphoedema. Currently, more than 1.3 billion people in 72 countries are at risk. Approximately 65% of those infected live in the WHO South-East Asia Region, 30% in the African Region, and the remainder in other tropical areas.” (Source: World Health Organization)

With proper medical treatment, the condition, which is caused by a parasite that is part of the roundworms family, can be cured. The parasite is usually transmitted to its human host through a mosquito bite. It subsequently invades and proliferates throughout the lymphatic system where it blocks and disrupts the immune system. “The adult parasites live for 6-8 years and, during their life time, produce millions of microfilariae (small larvae) that circulate in the blood.” (Source: WHO)

Although, quite disturbing, this condition is easily treatable for patients with access to proper health care. However, in countries like Uganda, which has a long history of civil unrest and unstable governments; this disease remains unchecked in its transmission and infection. In addition to the excruciating physical pain caused by the disease, there is the accompanying psychological and sociological impact.

People afflicted by this disease remain ostracized by society and their communities much like lepers in previous centuries. They are also unable to earn a living because of the crippling disfigurement caused by the symptoms of this disease. The adult worms can be successfully killed usually with one treatment, however, the disfigurement suffered by the individual remains unless they can arrange to have surgery to remove the tumors.

It is sad that the Ugandan people who have been victimized by a series wars instigated by despotic rulers, the most egregious being Idi Amin, must now face a new marauder in the form of this parasite.

To learn more about the disease watch the Voice of America video below.

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About Ayanna Nahmias

Ayanna Nahmias was interviewed on Radio Netherlands Worldwide program titled 'The State We’re In,' about her life in Africa and her determination to transcend her past. She started the Nahmias Cipher Report to provide information to readers about life in emerging economies, and to provide alternative insight into the challenges faced by women and children living in these countries. The blog features stories from around the world to inspire other people to persevere and triumph in the face of great adversity. She blogs about current events in emerging economies, international politics, human rights abuses, women’s rights and child advocacy.

View all posts by Ayanna Nahmias

2 Comments on “First War, Now Elephantiasis”

  1. teeceecounsel Says:

    Nice! Great job with this blog!

    Reply

  2. Yousei Hime Says:

    A fascinating article about a disturbing condition. It looks so painful. Thank you for the work you do here, and for following my blog.

    Reply

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