Dodome is a cluster of six rural farming communities in the Volta region of Ghana, situated northwest of Ho, the regional capital, bout 180 kilometers northeast of Ghanaian capital Accra.
The communities are part of the major food baskets of the Volta region, with the cultivation of corn, plantain, and cocoa, besides vegetables.
However, the presence of phlebotomine sand flies makes life unbearable for the people in these communities. These tiny insects prey on them, causing severe skin lesions and parasitic leishmaniasis infections.
Bernett Dogoe, a traditional chief of Dodome Awuiaso, one of the six communities, told Xinhua that the flies, known locally as Ehle with their associated health hazards, had been a source of great worry to the locals.
“The flies have been here for several generations, making life unpleasant for us,” Dogoe said, adding that the bites have caused chronic aliments to locals.
According to the World Health Organization, bites from sand flies leave bumps and blisters on the skin of their victims, resulting in severe skin lesions.
Mizpah Tsevi, a young female farmer, has a three-year-old son Raymond Kwaw who has blisters all over his body. The child continued scratching his body as Xinhua interviewed his mother.
“The blisters on his skin are due to the bites from the sand flies. Once they bite him, he begins to itch, and when he scratches the spots, the blisters appear and leave scars on his skin,” Tsevi told Xinhua.
She has tried using various skin care products to treat the blisters on her child’s skin, but with limited success as the blisters reappear after each bite.
“My skin used to be smooth, but due to the effect of the insect bites, it has become rough. It makes me itch, but when I scratch the body to get relief, it becomes sore. It makes farming difficult for us,” said Agnes Dornyo, a 60-year-old female farmer.
Some locals said they live in perpetual uncertainty due to the new knowledge about the health hazards associated with sandfly bites.
In recent years, SylDem Limited and EXA Ventures, two local companies, have teamed up in outreach programs in these communities to bring relief to the people.
“Through research, we established that the presence of the sandflies has led to the prevalence of skin lesions and leishmaniasis infections in the communities. We, therefore, embarked on this project in 2017 to eliminate leishmaniasis infections in the communities,” Sylvia Demanya, Managing Director of SylDem, told Xinhua during one of their outreach programs.
“Since they are mostly peasant farmers, seeking medical treatment seems expensive for the locals,” added Demanya.
The two companies carry out public education during their outreaches and donate free organic insect repellents to the locals, some for smearing on the body and others for burning in their rooms to fend off attacks from the predatory flies.
They also donate certified food supplements produced from the noni plant to the locals as immune boosters against infections from insect bites.
“We appeal to philanthropic organizations to support us in our outreach programs and in our quest to eradicate leishmaniasis in these communities,” she urged. Enditem