Why Be Concerned about the World’s Smallest Flea?

What are you concerned about today? Is politics? Is it the economy? Or is it trying to beat par? Granted, some are concerned with current, recent or impending personal loss – and we certainly understand. But the fact is, the things we are usually most concerned about are trivial compared to the concerns of the out-of-sight, out-of-mind people living in developing countries. Their primary concern is usually survival.

Medico Igiraneza is a 13-year-old boy living in his native Burundi, subjected to the curse of the jigger – the world’s smallest flea.

Medico Igiraneza is a 13-year-old boy living in his native Burundi, a Central African nation about the size of the state of Maryland, but with twice the population. With an annual per capita GDP of $900, Burundi ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world. But poverty is only a part of the problem. For many, like Medico, the bigger problem is often exposure to deadly diseases, infections and infestations.  Medico, himself, has already been subjected to the curse of the chigoe flea, or jigger – the world’s smallest flea.

Jiggers are parasites.

They live in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Male jiggers burrow under the skin of animals and humans, typically at the feet, to feed on the victim’s blood. It is the female jigger, however, that causes great suffering and ugly disfiguration that can lead to gangrene, amputation and indirectly, to loss of life. The jigger takes up a more permanent residence under her victim’s skin, using the host’s blood to keep her fed while she gives birth to hundreds and even thousands of eggs.

Although the eggs are released outside of the host, their birth has vastly expanded the jigger population. Before long, the process is repeated, thousands of time over. Meanwhile the host has more problems. Because the jigger has embedded itself so effectively and the host’s own immune system builds a type of callous around it, the parasite dies while still in the host after giving birth, causing additional infective problems. The only way to remove a female jigger is with a scalpel. A deep hole remains as a reminder.

The problem is bigger still.

Rarely, if ever, does a human host only one jigger. The host literally becomes both infected and infested. Cases are commonly reported where it takes more than a day for all the jiggers to be removed from one person. This is a serious problem, Food for the Hungry (FH) is concerned about it, and we are doing our best to help protect innocents like Medico.

Just a walk to school and back.       

Because of FH supporters, we were able to make Medico’s big dream come true – a pair of plastic shoes that protect his feet from additional infestations.

The walk doesn’t have to be uphill both ways. It only has to be taken barefoot in the mud, exposing the feet to the onboarding of the jiggers. That’s what happened to Medico. He dreamed about having a pair of his own shoes, but being the fourth child, the family could not afford them and he thought it was an impossibility. His feet and toes were full of ugly holes from where the jiggers had been removed. As others mocked him, he became withdrawn, lost self-esteem and the motivation and health to continue his schooling. All the washing and cleaning of his feet before and after school was simply too late.

A dream come true.

Because of the generosity of our FH supporters, we were able to make Medico’s big dream come true – a pair of plastic shoes! His health is improving and his shoes protect his feet from additional infestations. The change in his health and behavior have helped other parents to recognize the benefits of the FH program, creating a safer, healthier community at large. Medico proudly wears his new shoes to church, to school and to special celebrations. His dream has come true.

Providing plastics shoes is one of the best ways to protect children in Burundi from jiggers and intestinal worms.

Providing plastics shoes is one of the best ways to protect children like Medico from jiggers and intestinal worms. For them, something we take for granted – a pair of shoes – can make a world of difference by protecting them from the world’s smallest flea. Go now to our catalog page to see how you can help in Jesus’ name.