Podoconiosis or “Podo” is a non-filarial form of foot elephantiasis that affects the poorest of the poor. It is caused by direct contact with the soil and therefore can be prevented by wearing shoes. It is primarily found in rural Ethiopia because of the extreme poverty and the high concentration of volcanic ash in the soil. Silica in this volcanic ash microscopically cuts the foot and eventually disrupts the lymph flow, resulting in lymphedema. Many people in the affected regions cannot afford shoes and many do not understand the importance of wearing them. The local people neglect education on the true cause of Podo because they hold strongly to their traditional beliefs that it is directly correlated with the persons favor with God. Tropical Health Alliance Foundation (THAF) is a foundation that funds clinics in Ethiopia to fight against Podo. THAF not only focuses on the education, treatment and prevention of Podo, but also financially supports the local clinics with fighting other health issues such as fistulas, uterus prolapses, cataracts, and polio. TOMS provides shoes to children at risk of Podo, however this does not serve as a solution but rather a temporary fix. To eradicate the disease awareness of the cause must be spread, a cultural importance must be placed upon wearing shoes and a constant supply of shoes must be provided.
Maloney, Joseph M., "Podoconiosis: A Disease of the Voiceless" (2012). RIchter Research Abroad Student Scholarship.