The Health ministry last week asked Parliament for up to Shs 2 billion to help drive jiggers out of Busoga and Karamoja sub-regions. Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the director general of health services, said the money would go towards awareness-creation, so that people in the two regions can embrace benzyl benzoate emulsion (BBE) as a solution to jiggers.
It is commendable that the government finally seems to be taking the problem of jiggers seriously. While jiggers are not a national crisis, we realize it is easy for a part of this country to suffer while the other parts think that is “their” problem. For instance, it took years, sustained campaigns by legislators, and incursions into Teso, before much of the rest of Uganda started seeing Joseph Kony as a national problem.
Therefore, the fact that jiggers have continued to eat away at particular sub-regions suggests this problem merits national attention. In that regard, in August last year, The Observer published a two-part series focusing on the problem of jiggers in Busoga.
Our view is that jiggers are as much a public health issue as they are socio-economic issue. As a public health issue, the sensitization campaign that the health officials want could help alert communities to the presence of chemical solutions to the problem, and what they can do to minimize it.
However, we should not ignore the fact that jiggers are also a reflection of the poverty that pervades the affected areas. As Dr Peter Waiswa, from the Makerere University school of Public Health, told us last year, it is not a coincidence that most affected villages are where you find poor sanitation and families trapped in subhuman poverty. Families that cannot afford cemented floors, soap, shoes, or even cow dung are much more vulnerable to jiggers.
It is, therefore, imperative that ministers look beyond the Shs 2bn that health officials are asking for, and focus on socio-economic emancipation of Busoga. For now, critics may be justified to point at jiggers as a symptom of the neglect the sub-region has got for its sustained support to the NRM government.
Source : The Observer