Empowering HIV/AIDS orphaned children in Africa to a self sustainable future

Catherine Koch

Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.

Jiggers and Smearing 101


After Christmas, and before New Year’s and the events of my last writing, I had spent one night in Mbale to catch up on a few things, and was returning to the children on the 28th of December, I think it was.

Although I’d only been gone for one night, in keeping with the ever changing environmental circumstances always taking place at the center, the children were experiencing an outbreak of jiggers, and as a result, smearing was in full swing..

Jiggers.. rediculously tiny, but upon closer inspection, rather nasty looking/acting parasitic flea type creatures, living in soil and sand in the tropics, particularly post rainy season and where pigs are known to roam, that burrow into skin and plant themselves with the intention to lay eggs, usually somewhere on the foot of mammals.. including little orphaned children varieties and much taller muzungus who are camping with them! 🙂

One of the things that had been requested and I promised to bring back with me from my overnight in Mbale was a package of safety pins I had brought from Canada that I had with my stuff at the house ( thank you to one of my dear sister’s in law who I think was the reason I had them with me 🙂 .. who knew.. the common safety pin.. a most valuable and coveted item, this time of year.

Upon my return, when I handed over the package containing various sizes of pins, the children clapped with joy and gratitude. Everyone pinned theirs to his/her shirt and as the next few hours passed I could see the children gathered together in little groups, here and there around the compound, doing their own digging or helping one another to use their pins ( “do not ever share your pin..” ) to pick out the jiggers – the standard and often painful method of removal. Once the creature is removed and the affected area it’s been residing in is exposed, alcohol/antiseptic ensures the jigger will be unsuccessful in multipying in it’s host.. all good, right. Oh my.

So yes, I’ve now had one or maybe two jiggers.. on one of the toes on my left foot ( ah, yes, those minor future details.. 🙂 .. it didn’t ever really bother me at all, I just happened to notice that I had developed this random, very small blister/callous by my nail.

Seeing all the kids so intently examining their little feet caused me to have a closer look at mine and sure enough, yup. Even the idea of jiggers and I could picture a scene from one of those crazy horror type flicks where.. just below the surface of the skin of some unsuspecting character an entire colony of spiders or some such creepy crawlers birth themselves to hysterical screams and panic.. but I just laughed instead, and, I think my toe is gonna be ok, too.

Smearing.. while I was in Mbale, the children had collected much dried cow dung from Vincent’s heifer and brought it up to the center. Seems this time of year people take to smearing cow dung on the floor surface of all areas they hang out in. They mix the dung with water and then kneeling down ( well, that’s what the children do.. ), use their hands to smear the mixture over and seal the ground area. Once dried, it’s just like another layer of dirt on top of the ground, a different color, blackish, compared to the browny/orange that’s common, but it repels bugs, including jiggers and mosquitos..

And while you might think it smells, maybe like that rather pungent scent that wafts in the car window when driving through the Fraser Valley once manure has been spread in the fields, it just doesn’t, at all.. maybe something to do with the feed is my guess, not all souped up with “additives” etc, like the stuff for cows back home..

By the time I returned to the center, the boys had smeared their sleeping room, and all the children had smeared the classroom areas and even the space around my tent!

Jiggers, mosquitos.. please be gone! Thank you children, always taking such great care of each other and me!


Catherine xox

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