By David Himbara
In General Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, presidential jets sit side-by-side with jiggers. Kagame travels in his US$65 million Gulfstream 650 executive jet. On the road, he travels in one of his four Range Rover Sentinel that costs US$500,000 a piece. Side-by-side with that kingly lifestyle, the jiggers scourge is ravaging parts of Kagame’s so-called Singapore of Africa. As elsewhere, jiggers are thriving in parts of Rwanda where living conditions are precarious, such as the rural hinterland and shanty towns of major towns. In these settings the poorest of the poor carry the highest burden of disease.
According to The East African, the jiggers epidemic is most severe in Rwanda’s Huye District where families “are going without food as they cannot engage in productive work.” Evidently, jiggers in Rwanda are not only attacking people’s toes and feet, they are also attacking lips, making it difficult for them to eat. The jiggers are attacking mostly the young and the old — a large number of children in Tumba sector no longer attend school because they can’t walk long distances due to the jiggers scourge. The East African quotes the mayor of Huye District, Ange Sebutege, as saying that plans are underway to uproot the jiggers:
“We are conducting a survey to identify families in critical conditions so that when we start the project they will be given priority.”
The problem is not limited to Huye. The problem affects all parts of Rwanda. In 2018, for example, Nyanza District officials admitted to “having over 120 jigger victims, some of whom were forced to undergo medical treatment.” Let us hope that Kagame will reduce the use his Gulfstream jet and use the savings to fight jiggers in his Singapore of Africa.