The other day I talked about us having to visit different villages to determine the problems the people were experiencing from drinking contaminated surface water. CEED has specific questions we ask the people to see if there is anything unique in a community. I also mentioned the burden we were saddled with after listening to these problems knowing that the majority of these diseases can be solved by introducing clean water to a person’s diet. Such a simple solution.
After doing this task for a couple of days I took some time off and thought I could relax. As an African rain thundered down around me, I thought to myself, “We talk to these people about their diseases as though they had a common cold”. When my boys were sick, we gave them some cough medicine or aspirin. In an hour or so they would be better. You knew the common cold was temporary. Here their “common” diseases are not. They are present, threatening and infecting in the contaminated water they are drinking.
In Kyakajoro, a village in which we made the survey, Herbert asked the question ” How many of you have suffered from typhoid?” 100% of the people there raised their hands. A man in the front row pointed to an older lady that sat next to him and informed us that she is now suffering from typhoid. You could see that she was sick. She did not bother to stand or comment on her condition. She just sat there weak and suffering. When questioned, the answers were much the same for cholera, malaria, dysentery and a host of other waterborne illnesses. You could see the effects that contaminated water had on many of the children who were gathered around us. Ringworm, bloated stomachs, and jiggers were the obvious things you could see that clean water could alleviate. I also noticed their wide eyes, bright smiles and an overwhelming excitement that we were in their village. I suppose the children who were very sick were home being comforted by mom the best way she knew how. These children live and play every day, retrieving the very water that carries the parasites that are killing them. Believe me, I know CEED cannot cure the world but, with your help, I promise you we can eliminate many of the diseases that infect these communities.
There is one more disease I was introduced to during our survey, bilharzia, also known as schistosomiasis. Never heard of it, have you? It is a disease caused by a freshwater parasitic worm invading and attacking the body. There are many symptoms of this disease, one of which is bloating. In Kyakajoro I met a lady with bilharzia. She stood at the back of the group of people we were meeting with. She was about 5′ 8″ tall and thin except for the bloating caused by her disease. She was pretty and shy with a smile that she used to hide her embarrassment when I called her forward to ask about her disease.
After we left that village, I asked Herbert about this disease “bilharzia”. Herbert told me that they are given a vaccine when they are very young to prevent this illness, but in these villages, he explained, they cannot manage the logistics of distribution for the vaccines. (According to the World Health Organization “it is estimated that 90% of those requiring treatment for schistosomiasis live in Africa”.) On the other hand, many of the diseases we talked about in these communities can be stopped by introducing clean healthy water. That includes bilharzia. However, once you have it, it can only be cured with specific medical treatment including professional medical diagnosis, lab tests, imaging, and medication.
I am not afraid of much but the thought of parasitic worms living in me, making their way to my liver scares me to death. Herbert has contacted his doctor who gave us some information concerning treatment for this lady. The cost of transport from her village to Hoima and back, housing for a couple of days, medical diagnosis, medication, and meals comes to about $280.00. If there is anyone out there who reads this post and wants to help, God bless you! I know that this is just one person among the millions who need treatment in East Africa, but if you had seen her smile and shaken her hand, I am sure you would understand the burden that I feel.
I pray that there will be a way to relieve her of her burden which is much heavier and more deadly than any I carry.
God bless you – God help us.