Foot Washers of Ethiopia

Christianity Today Magazine has posted a link to my latest article, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/may/footwashers.html. It’s a story about podo, a strange disease that only affects the poorest of the poor. A westerner or a city dweller couldn’t get it if they tried. But in remote and poor Ethiopian villages, where people can’t afford shoes, about five percent of the population contracts a foot disease that’s ultimately crippling. Preventing it is simple: wear shoes. Treating it isn’t too tricky either: wash the feet carefully, wear pressure bandages, and don’t allow infections to take hold.

But for the terribly poor people affected, these simple preventatives and treatments are beyond thinking. They can’t afford shoes. Working barefoot in the fields, they’ve never learned to wash them and treat them carefully. So approximately a million Ethiopians are hidden away, treated like lepers by their communities, unable to contribute to their families because their feet hurt unbearably. A person with an advanced case of podo looks like his feet are turning into a new branch of zoology. It’s horrible and it stinks.

The article traces the varied groups of Christians who are treating podo–missionary doctors, medical researchers, Catholic sisters, for-profit entrepreneurs. It’s fascinating how this hidden disease, of no concern whatsoever to anybody with money, has drawn an eclectic coalition of Christians together.

 

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