We had the pleasure of having Sharon Daly, Executive Director with The Mossy Foot Project, present to our Sunset Rotarians at our most recent club meeting. We’ve spoken about this amazing program on all our social media outlets, but really wanted to shed some light on this almost unheard of disease.
Mossy foot is a disease that manifests itself as a massive swelling of the feet and legs. Its common name describes the appearance of the skin that becomes very rough and bumpy and changes to look like moss.
The scientific name for this condition is podoconiosis, which is a non-infectious type of elephantiasis (swelling of the leg).
With recurrent infection, the condition can also result in feet with an offensive smell. The swelling is painful and often the discomfort makes it impossible for the sufferer to walk, let alone carry out normal work and family duties. Sufferers are ostracized. They are often forced to become beggars and some community members believe that they have been cursed. Often, they are shunned like lepers.
Mossy Foot disease affects about 5% of the population in highland tropical areas with volcanic soils and lots of rainfall. This geographical combination produces a sticky red soil, rich in silicates that can penetrate the skin of susceptible people as they go about their daily business barefoot.
The Mossy Foot Project is a faith-based Christian organization that works to raise the level of awareness about podoconiosis in the Western world and works toward its prevention, treatment, and eradication among those who are at risk in Ethiopia. Their work is presently centered in the town of Soddo, Wolaitta zone in southern Ethiopia. They currently run 17 clinics in that area.
They provide medical treatment, education, vocational training and both social counseling and spiritual support to individuals and their families who are afflicted with podoconiosis.
Mossy Foot is that the condition is highly treatable. Not only that, but in the majority of cases simple, inexpensive treatment has dramatic results.
Typically, treatment entails:
- Foot hygiene: regular washing the legs and feet with soap, water, and antiseptics
- Regularly moisturizing the skin with a simple skin cream and treating between the toes with anti-fungal ointment
- Using elastic bandages (for more swollen legs)
- Elevating feet at night
- Wearing socks and shoes
If the disease is treated early, the patient’s feet and legs can return to a normal size. Patients with advanced disease show great improvements if they follow the same program, but it may be difficult to get back to a completely normal-looking foot. The aim for these patients is that the disease is controlled such that they can wear normal shoes, earn a living, and be accepted back into their society.
If you’d like to donate to The Mossy Foot Project, visit their website HERE. You can also mail donations to P.O. Box 5311 Ventura, CA 93005.
Info & Photo Credit: Mossy Foot Project