39.3.2 How does podoconiosis affect people?
There is a major similarity in the experiences of people with podoconiosis and lymphatic filariasis, as we already mentioned in Study Session 37. They often face severe stigma and rejection by their communities. They may be forced out of school, or even rejected by their church, mosque or idir. Other people may be reluctant to eat with them or associate with them in other ways. Marriage for people in affected families may be restricted to people from other affected families. Many of these social problems arise because people mistakenly fear that podoconiosis is infectious, and that they may catch it from patients.
People with swollen legs due to lymphatic filariasis face the same problems as people with podoconiosis.
In addition to this social stigma, people with podoconiosis often find it difficult to do physical work because their legs are heavy and uncomfortable. They often become very poor as a consequence of being unable to farm or take produce to market. Whole communities are also poorer because people with podoconiosis cannot work on their farms. As a country, the WHO estimates that Ethiopia loses US$200 million each year because of the work that people with podoconiosis are unable to do.