What is a Jigger?

Bhante participating in a jiggers treatment program in a rural village in central Kenya.

When a friend who was visiting me at Nairobi Buddhist Temple mentioned “jigger” I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he showed me some photos of those who were infected with jiggers. I immediately felt that I needed to visit the people who are suffering from jiggers to understand it better.

The chigoe flea or “jigger” (Tunga penetrans) is a parasitic arthropod found in tropical climates. At 1 mm long, the chigoe flea is the smallest known flea. Breeding female chigoes burrow into exposed skin on the feet of mammals and remain there for two weeks while developing eggs, sometimes causing intense irritation. If the flea is left within the skin, infection and/or other dangerous complications can occur.

When I expressed my interest to get involved in helping those who were infected, Mr. Dawda organized a visit to a village in Central Kenya where many people are infected with jiggers. On that particular day there were about 60 people who gathered on the lawn of a health center. Most of their hands and legs were infested so badly that it was difficult for me to watch their condition. I came back to my temple with a heavy heart.

Since then I have personally read about jiggers and spoken with both health officials and infested people. Conservative estimates say over 2.6 million Kenyans are infested. Every year many cases of death due to jigger infestation are reported nationwide. I now understand the treatment and what is needed to heal the people. I have also spoken with several possible sponsors who can finance the cost of our program.

We have discussed this project with several people and are preparing a program to help jigger infested people and soon will be choosing several villages to launch our program. My intention is to completely eradicate this menace in several villages as an experiment and then continue to expand our program into different areas. We will keep you informed of our progress and if any of you want to support the program please contact us. Thank you.

Bhante participating in a jiggers treatment program in a rural village in central Kenya.
A child infected jiggers.