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Children infected with schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharziasis in some endemic areas, is the second most prevalent tropical disease, after malaria, and is a leading cause of severe morbidity in many parts of the world.

Click on the snails,
and the World Health Organisation (WHO)
will explain to you more about this disease.

Endod (Phytolacca dodecandra), commonly known as the African soapberry plant, is a perennial that has been selected and cultivated for centuries in many parts of Africa, where its berries are used as a laundry soap and shampoo. Endod is synonymous with "soap" in many African countries. People of the Ethiopian highlands, for instance, use Endod berries to launder their traditional shamas, the glistening white shawls characteristic of the region. The fish-killing property of Endod is also well known and, traditionally, people in rural communities use Endod as an intoxicant to collect edible fish.

Dr. Aklilu Lemma with Endod-berries
Click on the picture to learn more about him.

In 1964, while conducting field work in his native Ethiopia, biologist Aklilu Lemma observed that downstream from where people were washing clothes with the soapberry plant, dead snails were found floating in the water. After several years of intense research, Dr. Lemma discovered that the sun-dried and crushed Endod berries were lethal to all major species of snails but not harmful to animals or humans, and completely biodegradable. Over almost 30 years Dr. Lemma's goal has been to develop Endod as a safe, low-cost alternative to expensive chemical molluscicides. In addition to effectively controlling disease-carrying snails, Dr. Lemma viewed Endod as a traditional African plant that can be developed as a capacity-building technology by and for African communities. In the words of Dr. Lemma:
"Through the development and use of simple, appropriate agronomic techniques and extraction and application procedures, people could easily grow, process locally and use Endod products to control schistosomiasis on a community self-help basis."

Unfortunately, Dr. Lemma's 29-year quest to see Endod widely used in Africa has been repeatedly stalled by international regulatory obstacles. Despite rigorous toxicological studies performed by Lemma over the course of two decades, the World Health Organization disregarded Lemma's research (and the traditional wisdom of people who have used Endod for centuries), insisting that the scientific analysis conducted in Ethiopia be repeated under standardized "Good Laboratory Practices" by internationally-recognized institutions.

Endod: A Case Study of the Use of African Indigenous Knowledge
to Address Global Health and Environmental Problems

Dr Lemma observed: "
We have learned the hard way that the root problems of scientific research in Africa are not only the lack of adequate facilities and funds, but also the biases and reservations of some individuals and organizations in industrialized countries who find it difficult to accept that any good science can come from our part of the world... Also, except for occasional lip service, little credit is given to the wisdom of traditional societies in their ability to select, over long periods of time, such natural products as Endod for their continued and demonstrably safe use."

Dr. Aklilu Lemma died on April 5th, 1997
One of his students, herself from Africa, dedicated a poem to him



"How to prevent the bilharzia disease
by treating your water in lakes and rivers
with powder you can grow in your fields"
14'57" /

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