Imagine for a moment an outbreak happening here in America – a new disease that suddenly begins to run rampant throughout our population, taking the lives of the young and old alike. It attacks without warning, but its most terrifying aspect is that in the majority of cases, there are no symptoms. There is no obvious way to tell if you are infected – save for the appearance of a small bump, indistinguishable from a common bug bite. Imagine symptoms of the disease that don’t appear for weeks, months or even years before the disease becomes fatal.
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like living day to day under such a plague – worrying that your family might be next; wondering what would happen to them if you became infected. But the sad reality is, the people we serve in Bolivia don’t have to imagine it. For them this terrifying epidemic already has a name – Chagas, and it’s responsible for taking the lives of more than 20,000 individuals annually.
How does it happen? It all starts with a tiny insect called a vinchuca bug.
We are never more vulnerable to attack than when we are asleep. The vinchuca bug is built to exploit this basic fact of nature and takes full advantage of it. During the day, it hides among the thatched roofs and mud walls of Bolivian homes. But at night, when the house is cool and quiet, it creeps out of its hidden crevice to feed on the blood of anyone it can find. After finishing its meal, in that process infecting its victim with Chagas, the vinchuca bug slips quietly back into the walls to await another chance to feed.
Today, there are countless numbers of Bolivians currently carrying this disease, and because vinchuca bug bites only occur at night, many haven’t a clue they are infected until it is too late.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to stop Chagas dead in its tracks – eliminate the bug and you eliminate the disease. Esperança is busy working across Bolivia, visiting village after village in an effort to fight the spread of Chagas.
To accomplish this monumental task, we use a three-pronged approach:
• Preventative Education – very few Bolivians understand how Chagas works and how it is spread. Through education, we can shed light on the root of the issue, the vinchuca bug, and give them simple instructions for safeguarding their homes against these dangerous parasites.
• Improving Homes Through Construction – some of the homes in rural Bolivia are impossible to safeguard against vinchuca bugs simply because of the way they are constructed. In these situations, repair and sometimes the construction of new homes is necessary to keep residents safe.
• Identification and Treatment for the Infected – Chagas is a blood disease and therefore can be spread from human to human through blood transfusions and even childbirth. Fortunately, this means it can also be identified through a simple blood test. If caught early enough, it can also be cured.
We’ve had great success using this approach. It’s not unusual to see infestation rates over 30% decrease to less than 1% by the time we leave an area. One by one, village by village, we are raising awareness and giving the infected hope for a future. But that’s not the best part.
The best part is, we can do all this – the education, the construction, even the medic
al testing and treatments – for as little as $8.50 per family.We plan on reaching 20,000 families with our Chagas-eliminating, three-pronged approach. That means we need to raise $170,000 in order to fund the entire project. It sounds like a lot… until you factor in just how many lives this project has the potential to save.
Including parents with an average of 2.5 children each, there are 90,000 lives we will be protecting from this deadly disease. But don’t just count this generation. Once Bolivians understand the root cause of Chagas and how to deal with it, it will become common knowledge passed down from generation to generation – saving countless future lives as well!
Thanks to modern medical science, few of us here in America will ever know what it means to lose a child or a spouse suddenly and without explanation. It’s an experience that haunts you, a fear that grows inside you as you wonder which of your loved ones will be taken next. We have the opportunity today to not only bring 20,000 families peace and comfort by identifying this unknown danger, we have the power to neutralize it. Your pledge this month will help put an end to so many needless deaths across Bolivia and bring hope and healing to those who are already infected.