I’ve written before about the shoe charities, companies like TOMS Shoes and their marketing effort that uses the lure of donating shoes to help sell their shoes. One of the items they talk about on their blog is the transmission of helminths (e.g., hookworm), and how important their shoes are for combatting them.
I have found an interesting commentary on that.
From the time of the earliest demonstration that hookworm larvae enter the human body through the skin there have been those who believe that the most practical method of hookworm control is the protection of the skin of the feet. In their zeal, some of these persons have opposed active campaigns for improved sanitary habits and have substituted campaigns for securing the wearing of shoes. They argue that the tropical peasant has not the resources to permit him to build a latrine at his home, and furthermore that if he did build a latrine he would not use it. In some cases they have recognized that it would not cost so much to build a good latrine as to supply a single family with leather shoes for a year and that the latrine would be of service for two or more years. They have then advised the substitution of canvas shoes with rubber soles for the sake of economy. The movement has gainged such proportions that in one West Indian island the number of shoes distributed by charitable organizations for this purpose amounts to several thousand pairs a year.
In fact, the above is from a study, in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. What the study showed was that the hookworm larvae can pretty easily penetrate various types of cloth-sided shoes. You see, if you step in infected mud, the mud can get on the sides of the shoe and thereby continue into the foot. That is also why flip-flops are not particularly effective hookworm control.
Let’s take a look at a TOMS Shoe:
Hmmmm. I’d worry about that. (I don’t know if this is the sort of shoe that they donate—maybe their donations are cheap knock-offs.)
The thing is, if you wear a full leather shoe in the tropics, you will in all likelihood very quickly develop quite a fungal infection. And the study says that cloth-sided shoes, which at least let in a bit of air (but probably not enough), let in the hookworm larvae.
So why waste your time and money on shoes? Why not work on decent latrines that not only stop the spread of things like hookworm, but really dangerous and deadly diseases like cholera or dysentery? Why not work on clean water supplies?
Oh, and by the way, that study was published in January, 1929: Penetration by Infective Hookworm Larvae of the Materials Used in the Manufacture of Shoes. Some people are just so wedded to donating shoes that they just cannot see anything else.
As I’ve said before, a decent donation would be PeePoo bags, available at Peepoople.com.