By Cecilia Okoth
The Government has identified benzyl benzoate emulsion (BBE) and petroleum jelly as the most effective treatment for jiggers that have ravaged several parts of the country, especially Busoga.
Jiggers often enter people’s bodies through the feet and once inside a person’s body, they suck blood, breed, grow and impact negatively on one’s health.
When administered to a person with jiggers, a combination of BBE and petroleum jelly can eradicate it in five days, Moses Kamabare, the National Medical Stores boss, said.
This was during the visit by Rose Namayanja, the Minister for Information and National Guidance, to the organisation’s head office in Entebbe.
Kamabare revealed that after vigorous trials, BBE was identified as an effective drug in the treatment of the parasites.
“This medicine is safe, cost-effective, easy to use and above all manufactured in Uganda,” he said, adding that a bottle of BBE costs sh1,200 and was initially used for treating scabies.
Kamabare explained that BBE was first piloted in January in Namukanaga village, Namungalwe parish in Iganga district where 100 cases were successfully treated.
“One 75-year-old who was known to have jiggers in the area was able to walk after eight years of suffering because of the jiggers,” he said, adding that the health ministry was working towards sensitising the local authorities before rolling it out next month.
Namayanja said jiggers have affected productivity in Busoga.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the jiggers are not known to transmit disease to humans, but are a nuisance because the females jiggers penetrate soft areas of the skin.
The victims suffer from stigmatisation and decreased mobility. They also become vulnerable to other bacterial infections and tetanus.
The only recommended treatment by WHO is extraction using sharp implements such as a needle or thorn. After removal, the wound should be dressed with an antiseptic and protected until it heals.
In February, 102 people with jiggers in the villages of Lokial, Kalimon, Loyoro and Hanyia in Kapedo county, Kaabong district were successfully treated.
Michael Kifubangabo, a public health researcher in Bugema University, said the drug should be used across the country and not just in Busoga.
“People think jiggers are a Busoga thing and this has greatly stigmatised the people in this area,” he observed.
Hajji Abdullah Buyinza, the spokesperson for Busoga clan leaders, noted that jiggers had become a menace in Busoga that had led to poverty and misery.