There is, of course, a lot of illness and disease here in Burkina Faso. The thing you hear about the most is malaria. Just a few weeks ago the government health service in this part of the country gave out free mosquito nets to people in the villages who had signed up to receive them. I, of course, have been sleeping under my Peace Corps issued mosquito net or in my Tropic Screen Tent ever since I arrived and taking my anti malaria drugs faithfully.
In spite of putting on insect repellant every day, I still get mosquito bites. Malaria is carried by the mosquitoes that are out in the evening, hence the value of sleeping under a mosquito net. My Peace Corps friends in the health service say that people tend to say they have an attack of malaria (the palu) whether it is malaria or a cold. There is, however, an anti-parasite drug that people get treated with when they have malaria. Several people I know, or their children, have been in the hospital and were treated with this drug, so I am sure many of those who say they have malaria actually do. I hope the new mosquito nets help. The data suggest that using them significantly reduces the chances of getting the disease.
One of the most obvious signs of poor health is the condition of people’s teeth. So many adults have missing teeth that it is surprising to see someone with all of them. Often you see a smile with big gaps in it, or only one or two teeth visible. Sometimes you see decayed stumps in the mouth. Pretty sad. There are tooth brushes and tooth paste available at the local stores, but the most common way to clean teeth is to grab a twig off a tree and rub your teeth with it. It turns out this is not just any old tree, but the mim tree. One of my friends stripped a twig of it for me to try and it is pretty bitter. It must have some particular chemicals under the bark. Some people who use them a lot seem to have pretty good teeth, so maybe it is one of those reasons to preserve biodiversity. It may be the next new ingredient in your tooth paste. Who knows? Another friend told me that it works best if combined with sodium, which you can buy at a boutique or the marché. He said that, if you don’t have money for sodium, you can crush salt and use that powder. He has great teeth, so he is a pretty good testament to the effectiveness of this method.
If you are a Dr. Suess fan you know about truffela trees, that were all cut down to make sneedes. (Dr. Suess aids the environment.) Someone pointed out that in some of my pictures there are trees that remind one of truffula trees. They are the mim trees, mentioned above, and here is a picture of one. Compare it to the book, if you have one at your house.
I have been struck by the number of people with a lazy eye, that is, one that does not focus with the other. You see this in children and adults. You also see people who are clearly blind in one eye. I am sure many people who need glasses do not have them because the only people with glasses are the functionaries, that is, the people who receive a salary
It amazes me how many of the children have huge umbilical hernias. They may protrude several inches. Most of the young kids run around naked, or nearly so, so it is something you can easily see. Because clothes tend to be quite loose, and often rather ragged, you can see that these hernias are not a new thing. Adults have them, too. I don’t think it matters whether the baby was born at the maternity or at home, but I will keep an eye on the babies I see at the baby weighing