Letters

Neem in the treatment of scabies

I was very interested in the article on the use of the Neem tree in a recent issue of Footsteps and would like to share with you how this tree is used in Bangladesh as a natural health aid.

For the treatment of scabies we teach a home treatment which is traditional:

  • Boil some Neem leaves in a pot or water
  • When the water turns green remove the leaves and grind them together with a piece of raw turmeric root.
  • Use the water to bathe the child, then apply the paste to affected areas. This is done for three days.

Neem leaves can be dried and crushed to a powder, then stored in a tin. A little can be eaten with rice every day until the scabies is cleared. An Indian proverb says: ‘if you eat the leaves of the bitter Neem your life will be sweet’.

Ethne M Flintoff, The Salvation Army, Jessore, Bangladesh

The use of Neem

I would like to make a few comments on the use of the Neem tree. I think it is a very useful tree for many farmers who cannot afford to buy chemicals.

In my experience, using the seeds of Neem is not nearly as practical as using the leaves. Leaves dried in the shade can be pounded to powder and mixed with water as a spray, or just used as a powder insecticide.

The article advises drying the leaves in the shade, but I would also recommend the seeds be dried in the shade, since the active ingredient in Neem (azadirachtin) is broken down by ultra-violet light (in sunlight).

It is also important to stress that the use of Neem does not show immediate results. Pests do not drop dead straight away. It acts as a repellent and also inhibits the growth and development of the insects which eat it. Over time it is very effective but farmers expecting quick results may be disappointed and stop using it before realising the long-term benefits.

Neem also has many other useful properties. In Sudan we found the leaves very useful as a chicken litter since this controlled fleas and lice. The fresh leaves, if fed to goats, will control worms.

The Neem tree is a tree that should be encouraged in any treeplanting programme because of its many uses. However, the seeds are difficult to propagate because they quickly lose their viability. In Sudan we found it best to dig up wild seedlings from under established trees and transplant them into polythene tubes.

I hope these comments are helpful. I find Footsteps a very useful magazine in my work.

Dr Roger Sharland, OAIC/RDE Coordinator, PO Box 21736, Nairobi, Kenya

Collecting water from thatched roofs

Many thanks for Footsteps – it’s been very useful and interesting indeed. They are particularly helpful to the supervisors we are training in community health.

We have a query which we hope someone may be able to help us with. The ferro-cement water tanks sound absolutely wonderful (Footsteps No.1). Unfortunately, 99% of the homes here have a thatch roof. The water falling from these has a dreadful colour and tastes quite unpleasant.

How could we make a gutter around the roof to catch the water to lead it into the tank, and is there any way in which we could improve the taste?

We do hope someone might be able to help us.

Marie-Christine Lux, Rafai, Central African Republic.