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Bedbug scare sweeps Vihiga County

 Officers fumigate beddings of Teresinah Chuana (center), in efforts to eradicate bedbugs, in Emuhaya, Vihiga County. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Rose Munala, a retired teacher from Emukolo Village in Luanda Constituency was busy dusting her beddings and furniture outside her permanent house on a sunny afternoon.

Her home is among at least 3,000 households hit by bedbugs, which residents are attributing to witchcraft fears.

Munala, 61, says her house was invaded by bedbugs three months ago and the wingless insects became a major nuisance giving her family sleepless nights.

“I have been battling the bedbugs for a year, they are stubborn and never respond to insecticides.  Sometimes, they drop from the roof of the house and start crawling in swarms towards the bed or sitting rooms,” said Munala.

At one point, Munala was convinced the bedbugs had everything to do with witchcraft because they are resistant to all types of insecticides.

“My skin has turned brownish due to bedbug bites, I was worried that I may get skin disease or other health complications,” said the teacher.

According to her, households battling the bedbugs have been subjected to stigmatization including herself.

“It is not easy to get visitors, especially from the neighborhood not affected because they associate the insects with superstition, this has caused affected families to live in fear and shame because we are not welcome in public places in market centres where we have been labeled ‘watu wa kunguni,” said Munala.

Abigael Ochieng from Mungoye village has been unsuccessfully battling bed bugs for the last five years.

The widow says she has never known good sleep for many years. “I have been under attack for the last three consecutive months, bedbugs have invaded both the bedroom and sitting,” she told The Standard.

Ms Ochieng some people believe she could be bewitched “but it is not true, I just cannot tell how these dreaded insects ended up in my house.”

She believes lack of proper hygiene could be the cause and not witchcraft.

Teresinah Chuana, 68, a widow and victim of bedbugs says the insects have caused her agony for the last six years “but they intensified their attacks three months ago denying me peace completely.”

“I cannot remember when I last had a sound sleep, the insects have been feasting on me all night and there is nothing you can do about it,” she said.

She dismissed those claiming that bedbugs are brought by witchcraft.  “The truth is that bedbugs, just like any other insects, can invade our homes.”

But there is a ray of a hope following intervention by a well-wisher offering to fumigate all affected households in the area.

Ruth Bukachi from Tausi na Kunguni initiative has embarked on an ambitious journey to end the bedbug menace in Vihiga County.

Ms Bukachi, an insect expert, said the blood-sucking insects (bedbugs) do not exactly come with dirt or untidiness.

“Bed bugs are found in all strata of the society. They are with the rich, and the poor, in public transport, luggage, and every conceivable cycle,” said Bukachi.

According to her, bedbugs do not know social class or level of hygiene and can easily be transferred from Public Transport Vehicles or public places to homes and offices.

“Even the rich have bedbugs, same to the poor and because this is a menace that people do not want to speak out about, I have decided to visit all the affected households and for the last two months I have been able to fumigate 3,000 households just to ensure our people are living in good condition," said Bukachi.

Bukachi says she uses four different chemicals to kill the bedbugs due to their resistible nature to local or common chemicals or fumigation.

“I have a team of experts who are assisting me in ensuring we use the right chemicals to kill these insects, I am planning to extend my initiative to other constituencies after successfully weeding out bedbugs in the Emuhaya constituency,” she added.

Dr Ben Wandera, a dermatologist specialist from Kakamega General Hospital says repeated bites from bedbugs can lead to Anemia disease.

“Several bedbug bites bring inflammation on the skin and if this persists it leads to Anemia and of course, bedbugs are mostly associated with poor hygiene,” said Wandera.

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