By John Uniack Davis, Regional Director, West Africa, 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.
The serendipitous nature of some surgeries – being in the right place at the right time to hear about the opportunity – underscores the importance of intensive outreach to identify those in need.
Yacouba Diarra is a 63-year-old health center guard in Bla. He noticed a steady increase in the size of his scrotum over two years, and was getting very worried but did not know who to go to resolve his problem. One day, Yacouba heard health workers talk about needing to identify hydrocele cases for a free surgery campaign.
Yacouba said “I think I have the problem you are talking about” and was able to quickly get it taken care of. When asked how his life has changed since the surgery, he added “I was really worried before, but this has calmed my spirit.”
This is part six of a six-part series. Go back to part one and read the stories of Mamadou Coulibaly, Karamogo Sanogo and more.