By John Uniack Davis, Regional Director for West Africa at Helen Keller International
The government and people of Mali are confronted with many challenges as they fight to pull the country out of poverty. Everyday, challenges of making a living and caring for one’s family are even more difficult for those suffering from a disfiguring and disabling neglected tropical disease (NTD) like lymphatic filariasis (LF). A common complication of LF is hydrocele, an accumulation of fluid in the scrotum, around the testicles, that causes one or both to swell. It can have devastating social and economic effects, making it difficult to work or even walk, and subjecting those suffering from it to stigma and ostracism.
In Mali, cases of hydrocele are more common than those of lymphedema – another manifestation of LF. Hydrocele generally affects men older than age 35, often much older, but this is not always the case.
I recently visited Mali’s Ségou Region and had the opportunity to talk with six men who had benefited from life-changing hydrocele surgery over the past couple of years, thanks to the generous financial support of the END Fund and technical support from Helen Keller International (HKI) and the Malian Ministry of Health.
The stories of these men are illustrative of both the debilitating impact of the disease, as well as the hope that can be offered with an investment in surgery and efforts aimed at eventually eradicating LF and other NTDs. Each story will be told as part of a series showing the transformative power of surgery.
Though many suffering from the effects of hydrocele are generally men over the age of 35, this is not always the case. Before having hydrocele surgery about a year ago, Amadou Almoudou Maïga was living with steadily-swelling testicles for several months.
He knew that something was wrong, but did not know what it was and was ashamed to ask. Amadou, now just 27 years old, was so embarrassed about what was happening to his body that he created a pretext to break up with his girlfriend so that he would not have to tell her about his condition.
As his worry grew, Amadou finally confided his anxiety to his uncle. His uncle and aunt encouraged him to consult with a local surgeon, Dr. Kante, in their town of Markala. It took Amadou a couple of weeks to get his courage up, but when he did, Dr. Kante reassured him and told him about the opportunity for surgery free of charge.
Since the surgery – Amadou is happy and healthy and back together with his girlfriend. His life-changing surgery has made him decide to stay in school and become a technician in the health field.
This is part four of a six part series. Read about the role stigma plays for those with hydrocele in part five.