Chikungunya Can’t Stop Us: A Community Overcomes Illness Together
The word chikungunya originates from the Kimakonde language of Tanzania, where the illness was first documented in the early 1950s. It means “to become contorted,” as people enduring chikungunya have been known to hunch over in pain. There is no real treatment for the mosquito transmitted virus characterized by fever and severe joint pain. Its symptoms can last for months at a time or, in some cases, years. Honduras has seen 6,700 instances of the illness, many in the southern department of Choluteca.
Adelante entrepreneur Nolvia is one of the women affected by the disease. When I first met Nolvia in her small village in Choluteca I had no idea she had been struggling with chikungunya. She had continued to work in her corner store, maintaining her smile despite the fever and joint pain she experienced with the illness.
The weeks prior she had been crippled by the disease. Nolvia’s pain did not cease, and she was wearing down. It became tremendously difficult for her to keep her shelves stocked. “It’s a pain all the way through the bones,” she said, running her hands over her elbows and to the tips of her fingers.
Fortunately, her community of assembly members came to her aid during these hard times. Some of the other women in her group, including her neighbor Vilitza, had also suffered from the illness. They came together to share remedies and offer solidarity. The group and their credit officer, Álvaro, helped Nolvia start a supplementary business raising pigs. When she could not walk the distance to attend her assembly meetings, the group moved the meetings to her home.
Now she is back on her feet and is slowly starting to build back up her inventory. A fighter to her core, she has learned to cope with her symptoms, which lessen with each passing day. As a mother of eight with six children living at home, she says her children give her the strength to carry on. “All the money goes to my children. I invest in them.” Nolvia herself never made it past the sixth grade, and did not get any form of health education. Four of her children have now graduated high school, and Nolvia’s 14-year-old daughter hopes to study nursing after seeing how her mother and others in the community have suffered.
Nolvia and her 14-year-old daughter, who aspires to be a nurse to treat chikungunya and other diseases she has seen in her community.
Our Adelante field staff offer lessons on mosquito-borne illness to prevent dengue, malaria, and Chikungunya. Some techniques are to wear long sleeves, avoid keeping containers of stagnant water (where mosquitos breed), and to use natural or chemical bug repellants. Over the course of the year we plan to delve further into issues specifically related to chikungunya.
Addressing the health needs of our clients allows us to better serve our communities and allow them to improve their overall wellbeing. By overcoming and preventing chikungunya and other illnesses together, another barrier is conquered, further allowing the communities of Honduras to move forward.