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07/17/2018 05:31 am ET
Where Shoes Are A Luxury, A Nightmarish Disease May Be Lurking
In rural Ethiopia, something in the soil can trigger a deforming disease.
Tom Gardner On Assignment For HuffPost
Tom Gardner for HuffPost
Wosani Wolanchu at a clinic in the village of Waro in southern Ethiopia. Wosani suffers from advanced stage podoconiosis.
Tesfaye Bezabh in the village of Gesabale in southern Ethiopia has mild podoconiosis and says he rarely wears shoes.

WARA, Ethiopia —The district of Dawro in southern Ethiopia is farming country, its fertile soils brimming with life.
On steep hills, farmers eke out a living from corn and teff, yam and banana. When the thin air thickens with mist and rain, the copper-colored ground turns to mud.

But this fecund earth, a blessing for Dawro’s farmers, can also be a curse. Something in the soil triggers a disfiguring disease that may hobble even the hardiest folk.
“I am quite young but now I look old,” said Wosani Wolanchu, a 40-year-old mother of five waiting for an appointment at a clinic in the village of Wara.
She eases off an oversized plastic sandal to reveal a bloated, swollen foot riddled with scabs and moss-like warts. It took her two hours to hobble from her home to the clinic, a journey that once took little more than 30 minutes.
Wosani is living with podoconiosis, a non-infectious skin disease experts say is entirely preventable, were she able to afford proper footwear.
Here in Ethiopia’s remote highland villages, where farmers plow the soil barefoot while wives and children at home pad across dusty, uncovered floors, shoes are still a luxury. So in places like Wara the disease sometimes known as “mossy foot” endures, while the world remains largely ignorant of its ravaging effects.
Unlike the similar but much more common lymphatic filariasis (commonly called elephantiasis), which humans contract when mosquito bites transmit a parasitic worm, podoconiosis stems from prolonged exposure to red-clay minerals in volcanic soils.
Tom Gardner for HuffPost
Children near the village of Gesabale in southern Ethiopia, where 37 of 235 residents suffer from podoconiosis.
The causes are not fully understood but it is thought that soil particles, which enter through cracks in dry skin on the sole of the foot, damage lymphatic vessels, eventually causing swelling and a mushroom-like thickening and folding of the skin. This is often accompanied by recurrent malaria-like episodes, which render feverish victims incapacitated for as many as 90 days each year.
Podoconiosis currently afflicts an estimated 4 million people worldwide, 1.5 million in Ethiopia alone, making this almost certainly most affected country. Reliable estimates from other heavily affected countries, such as Cameroon, don’t come close.
A countrywide survey of Ethiopia in 2013, the first of its kind anywhere, found the disease to be more widespread than previously thought. The disease is endemic in some 40 percent of the country’s administrative districts and roughly 35 million people are at risk.
Podoconiosis was eliminated in Europe centuries ago, thanks to urbanization and the widespread use of footwear, but in Ethiopia, around 80 percent of the population still live in rural areas. A majority make their living from traditional, non-mechanized farming.
Ethiopian children start wearing shoes at age 12 ― and often much later in the case of those with podoconiosis, estimates Dr. Kebede Deribe, epidemiologist and research fellow at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. In places like Dawro, where the soil can be thick and sticky, footwear is generally considered unsuitable for outdoor labor.
Tom Gardner for HuffPost
Tesfaye Bezabh in the village of Gesabale in southern Ethiopia has mild podoconiosis and says he rarely wears shoes.
“I’m faster and more active without shoes,” said Tesfaye Bezabh in the village of Gesabale, a few miles from Wara, where 37 of 235 residents have the disease.
“Why would I wear them?”

Poverty and a barefoot tradition are compounded by a lack of understanding of the disease. Many suffer in silence for decades, unaware of the cause ― or a treatment for ― their condition.
Though scientists have evidence there is a genetic, hereditable component to podoconiosis, this is often misunderstood by patients to mean it is inevitable or untreatable.

“I don’t know the reason. All I know is that every day my foot is growing bigger and bigger,” said Wosani, the mother in Wara. “It would be good if I died today.”
For those like Wosani suffering from especially advanced podoconiosis, minor surgery might ease some of the discomfort in her foot by removing the worst lumps and inflammation, but much of the deformity will probably be with her for life.
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  I don't know why my computer won't let me post correctly to show the devastating easy to fix foot condition plaguing a good part of Africa.  In fact, this disease derived from Europe where it was known that peasants/surfs did not wear shoes and developed this condition as a normal part of daily life.  This disease was eliminated in Europe during the onset of African slavery-making it among many other diseases Europeans brought to Africa and North America.  BTW  I say this because Africa did fine and the people had scandals to walk in much like the Native American....however when they were snatched from their land.....most times it was without shoes.....and combs.  And if they had shoes and combs on the ship?  They certainty didn't have them once they arrived to the new world.....whether it was in America or in the Americas.  And this is why the westerners?  You know them cowboys vowed to die with their boots on?  Cuz it had a lot to do with where they came from and what they did not have before coming to the new world.  And shoes is one of things.       But!

Last edited by Kocolicious

"Podoconiosis, also known as nonfilarial elephantiasis  .  .  .  "


" .  .  .  disease of the lymphatic vessels of the lower extremities that is caused by chronic exposure to irritant soils"


I've seen people with that disease here in America.  


"Iratants soil"?   So, how are people getting it here in America?


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  Now you know if the slavers saw Africans feet like that?  They would have NEVER enslaved them....cuz you can't work with swollen feet.  So this came after the invasion and destruction of the culture structure.  White people always wanna talk about the diseases Africa has without ever apologizing for bringing them there.  They damn near destroyed all of Africa and wherever they invaded and  have the NERVE to call those they conquered inferior.  No we were never inferior....yall just won at the right time-it took 2 millions years to do it.  But the important point is inferiority cannot create brilliance.  In other words, savages can't build nations, can't innovate and can't civilize the world.  And yet, those who were called savages....did exactly that.  And here's one of the rewards given to us back at the ranch....podoconosis.  But!  

I think it's really some type of fluid build up, that in a place where people have ready access to a doctor, etc., would be drain or have some procedure or annother done.  

I'm not getting how it has anything to do with exposure to the soil with people who have been working, walking on and living around that soil for thousands, hundreds of thousands of years.  


"White people always wanna talk about the diseases Africa has without ever apologizing for bringing them there.  They damn near destroyed all of Africa and wherever they invaded and  have the NERVE to call those they conquered inferior."



The White man's diseases is really how he was able to 'conquer' most of the world that he did, because as he invaded and exposed people who had never been sick or had diseases to all his diseases, it caused half the population to become sick, dying and/or too weak to fight . . . that's really how the White race got on top, not because of any so-called "superiority" or great might, but, merely because he was so filled with diseases that were unleashed onto the native populations he encountered/invaded.   

Africans used to be the healthiest people on earth, even after all that, but as soon as the Black race started to mimic the White race, we got/get their diseases and ailments and chronicc illnesses as well.

Africans had been warned by prophecy, thousands of years before the first White man ever entered (was allowed to enter) Africa, that [para] "If the White man is ever allowed to set even one foot on African soil, the whole of Africa would die".  

And we're still dying . . . in more ways than one. 


Last edited by sunnubian

  I agree.  Just look at world history and you will see that European and Asian cultures were nearly wiped out by their poor hygiene behavior which caused fatal diseases like the plague, yellow fever, smallpox, measles etc.  This is why gemaine warfare is banned because it was the germs from Europeans that wiped out 200 thousand tribes of Native Americans.  And they lie about coming to  Jamestown in 1619 and was welcomed by the Native Americans.  Prior to their arrival, many of the Native Americans who lived there had died of smallpox.   That's why it wasn't conflict between the pilgrims and Native American because the Native Americans who were left were either sick or dying.  So it was easy for the pilgrims to enter the land unharmed.  

And with first it wasn't so much disease that destroyed Africans in Africa cuz if so the African slaves would have died the moment they set foot on the new world.   What was destroying Africa...was separation from culture, castration and FGM.  The Arab Slave traders were castrating the men and converting them into Islam and turning them into eunuchs either to guard the harems or fight in their military.   With the African women and young girls, Arab slavers performed FGM and conforming them into maiden slaves to care for the harems and the children inside the harems...since the only thing the harlots [from the Balkans and Caucus Mountains] knew to do was lay on their backs for the sultan.   And the sultan used the African maidens to raise their children for either military[sons] or harems[daughters].  

On the other side....African Diaspora… don't have castration or FGM per se cuz massa needed the slaves to work in the fields in the new world and the Americas.  Can't do that if you're hurting down there or dying from the loss of blood.  So in both instances Africans were  concern about their gentiilia[sp] cuz fast forward....during Jim Crow black men were hunted and castrated for massa's "game" pleasure.  Plus the African slave was decidedly preferred in America because massa couldn't keep Native Americans alive [from the disease he brought] long enough to consider them for slavery after the invasion/wars.  Mainly because  Native American's  immune system weren't as strong as Africans- who didn't succumb to all those nasty deadly pathogens circling the new world.  As Native Americans dropped like flies.....African slaves were still working the fields and in massa's household.  So it was after slavery......massa decided to use the method of castration on black men all the way to the 1960s.  Today murder, incarceration, poverty, miseducation, open racism all have replaced castration.  As far as disease?  When you take away the knowledge of the culture? You set the culture up for demise.  Cuz Africans had the cure for every disease known to man when they knew who they were as a people.  Now?  Many of us don't know who we are and is why massa can kill us at the drop of the hat with his diseases and all the above.  But!         

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