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Sightsavers Reports

Fighting infection to keep going to school

Headshot of Aruna, a boy who had schisto.

Despite knowing how important it is to go to school, 12-year-old Aruna struggled to keep up his attendance after catching schistosomiasis, a painful infection that can cause severe itching and abdominal pain.

Aruna lives in northern Guinea-Bissau, and is the youngest of eight children. His mother Aminata describes him as “a very lively boy”, but says he started to become ill and didn’t want to go to school. “He used to complain of stomach pain,” she explains. “We had some traditional medicines that we gave him, and when he felt better he went to school.”

A 12 year old boy stands next to his mum and dad who are sitting.

“We didn’t know he had blood in his urine,” Aminata says. It was only when Sightsavers-supported health workers tested Aruna at his school that his mother and father found out he had schistosomiasis.

The disease is common in sub-Saharan Africa, in poorer communities that lack access to clean drinking water or good sanitation. Parasites spread the infection by penetrating a person’s skin during contact with infested water.

“We were very afraid when we heard this news. We are old now – we have never contracted this disease so we were surprised to hear our son was infected.”

To treat children like Aruna, Sightsavers distributes anti-worming medication in communities and schools with the support of charity evaluator GiveWell. Teachers are trained to give out the medication, to make sure all children are treated.

“We knew through Aruna when he came back from school that they were given drugs. It was a great happiness for us to know that our son was given the drug to be cured of this disease.”

 

A boy walks among trees holding a bucket.

Aruna explains how the disease made him feel. “I remember falling sick sometimes – I got a headache and a stomach ache,” he says. “Even if I’m sick, I go to school. I remember when I got tested and took the medicine. After taking the drug I felt well – I felt better.”

Now that Aruna is no longer in pain, he’s able to help his father by picking cashews during farming season.

Aminata has noticed the difference too. “The only thing we could do was thank the people who gave him the medication,” she says. “We’ve noticed some change in him. Before he always complained about the stomach pain, but after taking the drug he hasn’t complained at all. We’re happy he’s not feeling pain any more.”

A boy picking nuts using a bucket outside.

“It was a great happiness for us to know that our son was cured of this disease.”
Aruna’s mother Aminata

A boy picking nuts using a bucket outside.

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