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Medics Warn Against Using Herbs for Treating Elephantiasis

The neglected tropical disease is spread by infected mosquitoes whose bites deposit a parasite that travels to the lymph nodes. It affects the lymphatic system causing swelling and pain in the legs, arms and genitalia. It also increases the risk of frequent bacterial infections that harden and thicken the skin.
A medical worker examining an infected leg

Audio 5

Health workers have warned patients against seeking treatment for elephantiasis from traditional healers.

The neglected tropical disease is spread by infected mosquitoes whose bites deposit a parasite that travels to the lymph nodes. It affects the lymphatic system causing swelling and pain in the legs, arms and genitalia. It also increases the risk of frequent bacterial infections that harden and thicken the skin.

In Lira district, there are 274 male patients with the disease compared to 172 females. However, many of them have associated the disease with witchcraft forcing many residents to run to herbalists for treatment.

Grace Apuu, a resident of Bar sub-county in Lira District who was diagnosed with elephantiasis, 22 years after she started experiencing the swelling on her right leg says she has been moving from one herbalist to another with no improvement. Apuu says she had given up on healing until last week when a member of the Village Health Team invited her to Ayago Health Centre III where she was diagnosed and given treatment.

Luo//Cue in; “Ayele kede kare…

Cue out… romo cang ikakano.”//

The same story is shared by Sylvia Abuu, a resident of Olilim sub-county in Otuke district who lost three bulls in the hands of traditional healers who claimed to have treatment for her swollen leg. However, the swelling has since persisted through the years from her foot to the waistline. The 56-year-old says the disease has not only rendered her immobile but the pain is also unbearable.

Luo//Cue in; “Kom dong amiti…

Cue out… dang dong pe.”//

Another patient identified as Dorcas Auma, a resident of Bar sub county almost lost her leg in the hands of doctors who thought the swelling was cancerous. The 32-year-old who has lived with the infection which has now spread to her other leg since 2012 says she had tried both prayer warriors and witch- doctors but nothing worked.

English//Cue in; “I tried witch-doctor…

Cue out… I will be fine.”//

However, medics say that the disease can be eliminated by stopping the spread of infections through preventive chemotherapy with safe medicine combinations repeated annually.

Rashid Mwesigye Etwop, a medical entomologist working with Lira District as the Vector Control Officer warned patients against using herbs for treating elephantiasis but rather seek guidance from professional health workers. He explains that cutting the affected limb using a razor blade causes more infection which progresses the elephantiasis.

English//Cue in; “In the village…

Cue out… health care provider.”//

Etwop asked the government and development partners to come on board and support the struggle to eliminate the spread of elephantiasis and hydrocele.

English//Cue in; “Preferably me I would…

Cue out… problem is big.”//

Lira District Local Government, through the Ministry of Health in partnership with Sight savers, is implementing the Lymphatic Filariasis Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention (LMMDP) project which started on October 1, 2020, running through to September 2023. The project has seen 300 patients with hydrocele operated while over 447 people with lymphatic filariasis are on treatment.