By John Uniack Davis, Regional Director for West Africa at Helen Keller International
The government and people of Mali are confronted with many challenges as they fight to pull the country out of poverty. Everyday, challenges of making a living and caring for one’s family are even more difficult for those suffering from a disfiguring and disabling neglected tropical disease (NTD) like lymphatic filariasis (LF). A common complication of LF is hydrocele, an accumulation of fluid in the scrotum, around the testicles, that causes one or both to swell. It can have devastating social and economic effects, making it difficult to work or even walk, and subjecting those suffering from it to stigma and ostracism.
In Mali, cases of hydrocele are more common than those of lymphedema – another manifestation of LF. Hydrocele generally affects men older than age 35, often much older, but this is not always the case.
I recently visited Mali’s Ségou Region and had the opportunity to talk with six men who had benefited from life-changing hydrocele surgery over the past couple of years, thanks to the generous financial support of the END Fund and technical support from Helen Keller International (HKI) and the Malian Ministry of Health.
The stories of these men are illustrative of both the debilitating impact of the disease, as well as the hope that can be offered with an investment in surgery and efforts aimed at eventually eradicating LF and other NTDs. Each story will be told as part of a series showing the transformative power of surgery.
Besides restoring men’s dignity and mobility, hydrocele surgery plays a pivotal role in restoring lost or deteriorating livelihoods. Ely Coulibaly is a rugged, 65-year-old farmer who appears much younger than his years.
But until March 2015, he was suffering from a large, unwieldy hydrocele, measured at approximately two liters in volume, that slowed him down and made it nearly impossible to farm his land and care for his chickens. He feared that old age was overtaking him.
Since he had the surgery, he has resumed normal activity and robustly goes about his daily activities. He and his wife are emotional and enthusiastic as they thank HKI and the END Fund for restoring joy, energy, and productivity to Ely and his family.
This is part three of a six part series. Read the story of how surgery helped 27-year-old Amadou Almoudou Maïga go back to school in part four.