According to the World Health Organization, about 300,000 people are infected with parasitic worms around the world. Between 10,000 and 135,000 of them die each year due to these parasites. These deaths could have been prevented with something as simple as adequate footwear.

Many people who live in poverty do not have access to adequate shoes that fit and have no holes in the sole. This is dangerous. Sanitation in poverty-stricken areas is not reliable, and it is not uncommon for children to go barefoot almost all the time in areas where sharp objects and human waste are on the ground. Without shoes, exposure to human waste can lead to parasitic worm infestations that come with a host of side-effects, “…including abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood and protein loss, rectal prolapse, and physical and cognitive growth retardation,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kenton Lee, a designer, inventor and reverend, wants to make these illnesses a thing of the past. He has collaborated with the company, Proof of Concept, to design a simple way to keep children from contracting soil-borne illnesses. The project, launched by charity, Because International, has partnered with organizations in Ecuador, Haiti, Ghana and Kenya to bring his solution to the children who need it most.

The Shoe That Grows is an inexpensive, durable sandal that can expand up to five sizes. Made from compressed rubber, leather and common metal snaps, the shoe comes in two sizes, large and small. The small shoe lasts from kindergarten to fourth grade, and the large lasts from fourth to about ninth grade. The materials are easy to repair and replace, even in countries with few resources. Because they are also very light, it is easy to transport large shipments of the shoes wherever they need to go. A donation of 50 pairs of shoes can fit into a duffel bag and be treated as a carry-on item for an airplane flight.

While an individual pair of shoes costs about $30 to make, larger orders bring the price down to $12 or even $10 each.

The project’s website has successfully distributed hundreds of shoes through its “Fill a Duffle” campaign. For $10 a pair, a duffel bag is filled with about 50 pairs of shoes. Once full, the duffel is sent to areas in need, and donors can even choose the areas they want their donation to reach.

The shoes are sold out right now, but will be available to donate and to buy in America again come July.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: World.Mic, In Habitat,, The Shoe That Grows
Photo: Because International


The World Health Organization (WHO) wants to draw attention to diseases that have typically been neglected and underreported. Referring to treatment for schistosomiasis, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, stated, “We can blanket this part of the world [Africa] with medicines that rid every schoolchild of worms and eggs, parasites that interfere with their learning, impair cognitive development, and compromise their nutritional status.” These are ten parasitic diseases WHO classifies as neglected.

1. Chagas Disease is transmitted through a triatomine bug’s sting, or by contact between the bug’s infected feces and open wounds or mucous membranes. In its chronic phase, parasites embed in tissue such as heart or digestive muscle. Symptoms include a purplish bruise, a fever lasting several weeks, headache, abdominal pain, cough, rash, diarrhea, chest pain, heart failure, and less commonly seizures or paralysis. There is no vaccine available, but insecticide treatments, bed nets, and good hygiene practices can prevent contraction.

2. Dracunculiasis, or “Guinea-worm disease” is caused by the ingestion of contaminated water. Over about a year, the parasite painfully migrates through tissues, eventually emerging from a painful blister formed on infected persons’ feet. Often relief is sought by immersing the body in cold pond water. Unfortunately, this causes the female worm to release thousands more larvae into the water. When a person drinks the contaminated water, the larvae migrate through their intestinal wall and the process begins again. There are no drugs available to prevent or heal the disease. Patients frequently remain sick for several months, although it is rarely fatal.

3. Echinococcosis develops in humans by ingestion of Echinococcus granulosus eggs, primarily through contact with infected dogs or by consuming contaminated food or water. If left untreated, Echinococcosis has a high fatality rate in humans.

 4. Foodborne Trematodiases are a group of parasitic infections caused by unsanitary food preparation or defecation of infected animals in fresh-water sources. The infections that make up Foodborne Trematodiases are Clonorchiasis, Fascioliasis, Opisthorchiasis and Paragonamiasis. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, chest pain, bacterial infections, nausea, skin rashes, and in some cases fatal forms of bile duct cancer.

 5. Human African Trypanosomiasis, or “Sleeping Sickness” is transmitted by the bite of a tsetse fly. The disease affects mostly poor populations living in rural areas of Africa. If left untreated, Sleeping Sickness is usually fatal.

6. Lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, is a painful disease that causes disability and disfigurement. Infection usually occurs in childhood, while visible symptoms don’t appear until adulthood. Filarial infection can cause fluid retention, fever, and genital disease. Nearly all infected persons suffer lymphatic damage and nearly half suffer kidney damage.

7. Onchocerciasis, or “River Blindness” is transmitted through the bites of infected blackflies. Infection leads to blindness, skin rashes, lesions, intense itching, and skin discoloration. Insecticide treatment of blackfly breeding sites can prevent the spread of onchocerciasis, and there is a drug available to treat symptoms and reduce transmission potential.

8. Schistosomiasis is transmitted through contact with larvae infested water. It affects nearly 240 million people worldwide in areas without potable water or sanitation, causing chronic sickness. Anthelminthic drugs now offer some control of schistosomiasis in marginalized communities.

9. Soil-transmitted Helminth infections are transmitted by roundworm, whipworm, or hookworm eggs present in soil where sanitation is poor. It is estimated that over 880 million children need treatment for these parasitic infections which can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, intestinal bleeding, loss of appetite, reduction in absorption of micronutrients, intestinal obstruction, rectal prolapsed, and diarrhea.

10. Cysticercosis is an intestinal infection of adult tapeworms that can develop in a number of tissues. Those located in the central nervous system are known to be the most frequent preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world.

– Dana Johnson

Source: WHO, WHO Speeches
Photo: ABC News