March 6, 2019 is World Lymphedema Day, a day to recognize lymphedema and lymphatic diseases and advocate that they become a global priority. There are various causes of lymphedema and they affect people from all walks of life. One of the causes that affects millions of people around the world is found at the end of long dusty roads, kilometers from basic health services, where people lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. This disease is called lymphatic filariasis (LF) and it affects the world’s most underserved populations. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 40 million people living in 72 countries currently suffering from the consequences of LF infection. The challenge is massive. As part of this very important day, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention (MMDP) Project joins governmental and non-governmental partners in highlighting the ongoing fight against LF-related morbidity.
The MMDP Project works with countries to provide high-quality treatment and care for people suffering from the debilitating effects of LF, particularly lymphedema and hydrocele. Lymphedema can manifest as swelling in legs and arms, or in breasts among women. Men may also suffer from hydrocele, a condition where the scrotum becomes swollen. Both conditions make working difficult if not impossible. They also often require a family member to help the affected person with basic tasks, taking that person away from their own daily chores. Affected individuals also face stigma and ostracism.
Rasmane Sawadogo is a farmer and community health assistant in Burkina Faso. For fifteen years his hydrocele often kept him from strenuous work because of the pain. He was unable to farm, breed his animals, or help at the local hospital. His condition also left him socially isolated. Watch his full story here.
“It bothers me because you don’t want to be around other people anymore. Imagine sitting around with a group of people and they keep staring at your hydrocele. You can’t hide it.” —Rasmane Sawadogo