I've been reading an article on the CDC Web site, thanks to a comment on my earlier posting. And judging by the pictures and descriptions, it seems that this is precisely what the children down the road have: sand fleas, or jigger fleas. The condition is known as Tungiasis.
I looked at the pictures, and they look exactly like what the kids have! An excerpt from the article says, "The female jigger flea penetrates into the skin of its host, undergoes a peculiar hypertrophy, expels several hundred eggs for a period of <3 weeks, and eventually dies. ... Within 10 days, the flea increases its volume by a factor of approximately 2,000, finally reaching the size of a pea. Through its hindquarters, which serve for breathing, defecating, and expulsing eggs, the flea remains in contact with the air, leaving a sore (240–500 mm) in the skin; the sore is an entry point for pathogenic microorganisms. The preferred localization for jiggers is the periungual region of the toes, but lesions may occur on any part of the body."
So, tomorrow morning, Laura and I will go with Ruth to carefully remove more of the sand fleas from the children's fingers and toes and inspect their little bodies for other infections. I realized that what I thought were rocks embedded into the young boys' feet may in fact be stage 2 lesions, as the flea's egg sack is growing.
The challenge with removing the egg sack is that one can easily break the sack and release the hundreds of eggs right into the sore! So it's a tedious process, and a VERY painful one at that. I'll take some candy for the kids to chew on to distract them. We'll also bathe the little ones again.
Please pray for the little ones for continued healing! I saw the girls today, and they look a big perkier. But there's still a long journey ahead.
Please also pray for us who are going to help, for protection from the very flies that are attacking the little ones. And for continued wisdom and discernment in dealing with the issues at hand - issues far deeper than egg sacks burrowed under their finger nails...