Bed bugs which are tiny insects from the genus climex can be found in any household as they can be transferred through clothes, luggage or even public transport. They feed on human blood mostly at night. Their bites can result in a number of health impacts including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms that can range from mild to serious. A scenario that is replicated in various households grappling with this problem.
The health impact of bed bugs
Bed bug bites cause hives and blisters, accompanied by mild to severe itching and burning on the affected area of the skin. A great source of distress and discomfort.
Being primarily nocturnal, their bites can cause loss of sleep, fatigue and anxiety. Directly impacting an individual’s productivity, mental state and social life in the long run. Staying awake and concentrating on tasks becomes an uphill task especially for children who come from these households. Scenarios involving people isolating from family and friends due to embarrassment and mental anguish associated with having bed bugs in their homes are common psychosocial effects following bed bug infestation.
While they are not known to cause any serious illnesses, secondary skin infections may occur largely as a result of scratching the bites and introducing germs to the wound. But with proper monitoring, this can be avoided. Other people have reported varied levels of allergic reactions which can also be handled with proper medical attention.
Constant spraying of affected areas with pesticides or incorrect use of pesticides in a bid to get rid of the bed bugs can also pose a potential health risk to the people around. And it’s recommended that proper guidelines be adhered to when exterminating these insects.
How AKI is trying to help
Angamiza Kunguni Initiative (AKI) is a female led Non-Profit Organization (NPO) that deals with eradication of bed bugs among the under privileged members of the society.
I am the founder and I was inspired to start this project after experiencing first hand the effects of bed bug infestation while studying at the University. These included sleepless nights, allergic skin reactions and poor grades during examinations. With lack of proper information or access to the right pesticides, I strived to find lasting solutions to this menace.
So far, AKI has worked with a number of households in which they have carried out fumigation using environmentally friendly pesticides and successfully combated the issue. Stigma is also an issue that arises as bedbug infestation is associated with certain levels of poverty or poor hygiene. A notion that AKI seeks to demystify.
In 2019, AKI was nominated for the Zuri awards “Young achiever of the year”.
Currently the demand for the services of AKI has far exceeded available resources. For us, the journey has just begun and we are excited about the possibility of reaching more households countrywide.
My name is Winnie Mwangi. I am passionate about charity and giving back to the community. Moved by the plight of less privileged members of the society who have been affected by bedbugs, I founded AKI 5years ago. My main aim is seeing a bed bug free society and children scoring better grades in school. A dream I’m hopeful will become a reality someday.
How I met Nabta’s CEO Sophie:
I signed up as a mentee for the Cherie Blair Foundation having done research on foundations that support women in business especially in Africa. I was matched with Sophie in 2019 and she guided me on how to run the Initiative. In March 2020, I was declared redundant at my place of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I talked to Sophie about my situation and she suggested I join Nabta Health as an intern. I’m currently the head of Nabta Health local presence here in Kenya and I remain grateful to Sophie for all the support, favours and guiding me on the right path.
A word from Nabta’s CEO Sophie Smith
I signed up as a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women after speaking to Cherie Blair about Nabta and learning about the work she was doing to support women in emerging markets. Winnie and I were matched as mentee/mentor in 2019. Initially, I was advising Winnie on her NPO, the Angamiza Kunguni Initiative (AKI), which was focused on eradicating bed bugs in Kenyan households. Then, when Winnie was made redundant at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I suggested that she joined us at Nabta. Winnie is now heading up our local presence in Kenya and has done a fabulous job of improving the visibility and formatting of the content on our platform. I remain extremely grateful for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the opportunity to meet amazing women like Winnie.