Migori, Kenya: Governor Okoth Obado was moved to tears as he watched hundreds of children wail in pain as jiggers were removed from their feet at Chunge Primary school in Uriri.
The children, most of who were drawn from the governor's home area of Chunge, wept uncontrollably as community health workers soaked their feet and hands in chemical solutions to cleanse the fresh wounds and prevent further infection.
"The jigger-causing fleas are a menace that my administration, together with Ahadi Trust Kenya, can eliminate totally for the sake of our younger generation," he said.
Speaking at launch of an anti-jigger campaign on Friday, Mr Obado said jigger-infested school children were unable to concentrate in class due to the irritation caused by the wounds.
Uriri Deputy County Commissioner George Chelagat said stigma caused many children to abandon school while their parents were isolated from communal development activities.
"It is a sad state of affairs that those who are invaded by jiggers remain isolated because everyone laughs at them," he said.
Mr Chelagat asked chiefs and their assistants to sensitise people against such stigmatisation and also on the importance of maintaining high standards of hygiene around their homes to keep jiggers away.
Ahadi Trust Chief Executive Officer Stanley Kamau said the State should incorporate campaigns against jiggers into its poverty eradication programmes.
Dr Kamau said many school children had been affected by jiggers and the situation was to blame for the poor academic performance in endemic regions.
He said affected children could end up being dependents in the community because most of them dropped out of school.
"Most of these children feel stigmatised and because of underlying poverty in their families, they drop out of school. This acts as a hindrance to the country's collective move towards economic development," he said.
Kamau challenged officials in counties to lay strategies that ensure all households infested with jiggers are top beneficiaries in any poverty eradication schemes.
He said an estimated 1.4 million Kenyans suffer from jiggers, with the highest prevalence rates found in Central, Nyanza, Western, Coast and Rift Valley regions.
He recommended that counties should conduct their own surveys to establish prevalence, saying this would help them adopt better interventions.