Volume 101, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Human schistosomiasis is a snail-borne parasitic disease affecting more than 200 million people worldwide. Direct contact with snail-infested freshwater is the primary route of exposure. Water management infrastructure, including dams and irrigation schemes, expands snail habitat, increasing the risk across the landscape. The Diama Dam, built on the lower basin of the Senegal River to prevent saltwater intrusion and promote year-round agriculture in the drought-prone Sahel, is a paradigmatic case. Since dam completion in 1986, the rural population—whose livelihoods rely mostly on agriculture—has suffered high rates of schistosome infection. The region remains one of the most hyperendemic regions in the world. Because of the convergence between livelihoods and environmental conditions favorable to transmission, schistosomiasis is considered an illustrative case of a disease-driven poverty trap (DDPT). The literature to date on the topic, however, remains largely theoretical. With qualitative data generated from 12 focus groups in four villages, we conducted team-based theme analysis to investigate how perception of schistosomiasis risk and reported preventive behaviors may suggest the presence of a DDPT. Our analysis reveals three key findings: 1) rural villagers understand schistosomiasis risk (i.e., where and when infections occur), 2) accordingly, they adopt some preventive behaviors, but ultimately, 3) exposure persists, because of circumstances characteristic of rural livelihoods. These findings highlight the capacity of local populations to participate actively in schistosomiasis control programs and the limitations of widespread drug treatment campaigns. Interventions that target the environmental reservoir of disease may provide opportunities to reduce exposure while maintaining resource-dependent livelihoods.

[open-access] This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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  • Received : 01 Feb 2019
  • Accepted : 24 Jun 2019
  • Published online : 26 Aug 2019

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