Authorities in the Southern Province are conducting a three-month campaign that seeks to promote hygiene and sanitation within local communities.
The campaign, in all eight districts of the province, has been on for the last three weeks, the provincial governor, Alphonse Munyantwari, told journalists on Friday.
One of the key issues being addressed in the campaign is fighting jiggers which are affecting a few people in the province.
The exact number of individuals affected by the bloodsucking parasite is not yet established but officials estimate the number to be in hundreds.
For instance, The New Times learnt that about 76 people are infested with jiggers in Ruhango District alone.
The campaign partly focuses on extracting the parasites from the affected persons and applying antibiotics on affected body parts.
The chigoe flea or jigger (locally known as Ivunja or imvunja) is a small parasitic insect which breeds into exposed skin of mammals and remains there for about two weeks developing eggs, during which period the body swells dramatically causing intense irritation-a situation known in the medical jargon as Tungiasis.
Tungiasis causes skin inflammation, severe pain, itching, and a lesion at the site of infection characterised by a black dot at the centre of a swollen red lesion, surrounded by what looks like a white halo.
If the parasite is left within the skin, dangerous complications may occur, including secondary infections, loss of nails, and toe deformation.
Health officials say the infestation is mainly a result of unhygienic conditions and lack of proper sanitation, both on the body and at home.
The parasitic insect lives in soil and feeds on warm-blooded hosts, such as humans, cattle, sheep, and dogs.
Governor Munyantwari said the campaign was launched after it was found that promoting proper hygiene could help get rid of the jiggers.
Officials are identifying households with poor hygienic conditions and those infested with jiggers for treatment and other forms of support.
Messages on hygiene and sanitation are being delivered, with residents being urged to support their neighbours in maintaining proper hygiene.
“Only proper household hygiene can help eradicate jiggers,” Munyantwari said.
He added: “Ensuring that all individuals maintain proper hygiene is everyone’s responsibility.”
Nyaruguru District mayor Francois Habitegeko blamed the prevalence of jiggers in the district on poverty and poor mindset.
He said efforts were ongoing to improve the living conditions of residents.
“Promoting hygiene and sanitation is simply a short term solution. But in the long run, we are looking at reducing poverty in local communities, improving living conditions and changing people’s mindset,” Habitegeko said.