Bolivia: Living without Chagas
The Mojocoya Municipality of Bolivia is now totally free of a potentially fatal disease, thanks to Plan’s seven-year Chagas control project.
As a poor, rural group of communities, Mojocoya was considered to be a high risk area for the debilitating sickness, but Plan’s holistic approach to eradicating the disease has seen dramatic results.
Chagas disease is transmitted by an insect called the Triatomine bug that is only found in Latin America. They are known locally as ‘vinchucas’ or ‘kissing bugs’ because they tend to bite the face. In the early stages of infection, symptoms are mild. As the disease progresses over the course of many years, serious chronic problems can appear, such as heart disease and malformation of the intestines.
Silent killerChagas, which is often considered to be a disease exclusive to poorer populations, is known as ‘the silent killer’ because little is known about it and many people who suffer from, or even die, from Chagas do so without knowing why they are sick.
Through education, home improvements to eradicate cracks in walls where the bugs live, surveillance and medical treatment, citizens of Mojocoya have learned to manage the insects that once plagued them and reduced their risk of new infections.
Community trainingAs Adrián, a community member, said: “Before, we used to kill the kissing bugs; now, with the training we’ve received, we catch them and take them to the laboratory to find out whether or not they actually have Chagas.”
The Chagas control project is now in the hands of community leaders, parents, children and trained human resources personnel living within the communities. The task will be shared by health care practitioners, education workers and departmental and municipal government staff involved in the area of Chagas control.
Chagas is found in 18 different countries throughout North and South America, and approximately 20,000 people die from it every year, with almost 100,000,000 people at risk of acquiring the disease.
Learn more about Plan's work in Bolivia.