Saturday, October 27, 2007



Scabies is a skin condition caused by small mites that burrow into the skin. In the early stages, there is mild itching. As the condition persists open infected sores develop and itching intensifies greatly. As the sores are scratched, the scabies spreads over the body. It is highly contagious, especially among young children who bath irregularly.

In our household, we noticed small sores on an infant when we first moved to Iva. Over the past two months, we watched as the sores continued to spread over his body. He developed a fever and his crying in the night became worse and worse. We thought it might be scabies, but were unsure about our diagnosis and more importantly how much we should inject ourselves into family affairs.

The family took the baby repeatedly to traditional healers. The family put oils, herbs, and native ointments on the sore, but the condition just got worse. Finally we said we thought the baby should go to the hospital and we would pay for the expenses. Mary went by bus with the child and grandmother to the local public hospital where the baby was said to have scabies. Four different antibiotic medicines and baths were provided. Total cost $7.00 US. The doctor does not charge for children.

The question is why did it take so long before the child was taken to a doctor and what triggered the decision to go? Our first response was quick and simple, money. But things here are not as simple as they may seem. Certainly money is an important factor, but the family has money for other things, also one has to factor the fear or distrust of the hospital and unfamiliar medicines. We now realize the most important factor was when we said that we would take the child to the hospital. Their comfort level with us and our knowledge of a Western-style hospital overcame their anxieties. In this different world we find ourselves and the role we play in it are as frightening to us as the hospital is to them.

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