Today Mr. Kanani Ziro seems like a vibrant part of the Burangi community in Malindi, Kenya, but he claims that for the past 11 years he was known as ‘Kanani the dead’. Kanani suffered from Lymphatic Filariasis, a neglected tropical disease that manifests as a gross enlargement of the scrotal sac to such an extent that sufferers are completely incapacitated, shunned from the community, and in many cases unable to work and support their family. Kanani Ziro had an extreme case of Lymphatic Filariasis. He could not easily sit or stand and he could not wear anything but a sheet around his body. His first wife left him because of the stigma and shame associated with his disease. Many of his sons left too. Kanani searched for treatment for 11 years, seeking advice from local doctors, foreign doctors, NGOs, witchdoctors, and many others. Most could not even diagnose his disease. Some wanted to charge more money for an operation than Kanani could ever hope to pay in his lifetime. And he was told that the chances of death during the operation were very high. Kanani spent all his wealth searching for a cure, but soon lost all hope that treatment was possible. He turned to drinking and was known as the ‘town drunk’. Almost everyone in the Burangi community believed that Kanani’s disease was the result of a witchdoctor’s curse and he became an outcast. His second wife also considered leaving him and after 11 years with the disease, he began to seriously consider suicide.
But hope eventually appeared. In December of 2010, MAP International Kenya began to work in the Burangi community to establish a Total Health Village program. Kanani heard of MAP’s work with Lymphatic Filariasis, and went to the medical camp for screening. After discussing his ailment with Dr. Kavuludi and Mr. Safari Ngowa of MAP Kenya, Kanani Ziro was promised that he would get treatment, and that he would live a normal life again. He was skeptical but agreed to the surgery. After the two-day surgery, it immediately became clear to him that he would soon has his life back. His body and spirit were healed and his faith was restored. Kanani and Kitsao became actively involved again in community life, with all fear and shame lifted from their shoulders.
Kanani’s experience compelled him to restore health and hope for others in his community. He has been active in community development projects, including the construction of the health center and a community road. Kanani bought a cell phone so that he can reach out to people in his community on a regular basis. He combs the village, with files under his arm, seeking to identify others afflicted with Lymphatic Filaraisis to educate them on treatment options. He is also active in establishing clean water projects and communicating important health messages as he visits with others in the community. Recently, he was unanimously selected by his peers to be the leader of the Neglected Tropical Diseases committee for the Burangi Total Health Village. Kanani Zito was transformed from a ‘dead’ man, to a man who lives abundantly, and shares all he can with his community. The people of Burangi consider him a real hero. If Kanani wins, he wishes that he is provided with more educational materials on Lymphatic Filariasis to distribute to families while also obtaining enough medicine and supplies to treat more men who are afflicted with this neglected tropical disease.