Are these Gatundu minors children of a lesser god?
They spend most of the day in the darkly, chilly indoors. Once in a while, they crawl out for a brief encounter with the sun and fresh air.
Up until a few years ago, the members of the family in Gatei village, Gatundu North constituency, were going about their normal activities. That was until jiggers struck and turned their lives upside down.
All the five children have been disabled by the parasite, which has also affected their mother who is the sole breadwinner.
Not only has the parasite turned them almost immobile, they are quickly losing their hands to the tiny insects colonising their bodies.
Due to the infestation, the children dropped out of school two years ago because they can hardly walk and the parasite made it difficult for them to concentrate in class.
“They dropped out of school two years ago because of the jiggers,” Martin Mwangi, a neighbour tells People Daily.
Jane Muthoni, the mother of the children says they have been struggling to get rid of the parasite in vain.
A widow, who lost her husband to chest complications four years ago, Muthoni is also a victim of the jiggers which have left gaping wounds in her feet and hands.
But even in her condition, she has no choice but do menial jobs in the neighbourhood to feed her ailing children.
She says that from her meagre earnings, she can only afford a single meal a day for the family, which worsens the health of the children whose strength has been waning.
“They are getting weaker every day not just because of the jiggers but also because we don’t have enough to eat,” she says.
Neighbours say that they have been trying to save the family from the sorry situation but are yet to succeed in eradicating the jiggers.
“We have been trying our best. In fact, we built this house for them but the problem is now beyond us,” says Moses Chege, a neighbour.
He says health officers occasionally visit the family to provide treatment but even the professionals’ efforts have not succeeded.
The family is now pleading for help to save them from the parasite, which has not only turned their lives into a huge misery but is also threatening to claim the lives of the children.
Jiggers infestation occurs when an impregnated female sand flea (tunga penetrans) burrows into various parts of the body such as finger nails, ankles, eye brows, palms, toes, knees, lips and eyelids.
The flea feeds on the blood and grows to the size of a pea that can cause pus-filled sores.
Serious cases, such as the one that has affected the members of the Gatundu family, can lead to loss of nails, amputation of fingers and even death.
Poor hygiene is one of the factors that contribute to jigger infestation.