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Fake Traditional Healers Threatening African Medicine
by Racheal Ninsiima
February 20, 2013

Lucas Gogoyi, a “nanga” or traditional medecine man sits in his consulting room in Highfields township in Harare, Zimbabwe. Gogoyi claims he can create “ tokoloshi`s” or bad spirits, July 22, 1999.

Feb 20, 2013 (The Observer/All Africa Global Media) -- Tucked away about 20 metres from the Kampala-Masaka highway at Busega is Kityo Herbal Research Project, a haven for those who want to rid themselves of dental cavities and halitosis (bad breath).

Tracing Kityo`s clinic was no easy job as he was new in the area and unfamiliar to many. In fact, one motorcyclist said he had heard that a witch-doctor had invaded the area.

When I finally traced the place, the diminutive Dr Kityo, as he prefers to be called, donning black socks, khaki trousers and pale white shirt loosely hanging over the trousers, welcomed me. However, I was supposed to remove my shoes. I felt a bit of indignation as I looked at the floor dotted with ash, broom sticks and black seeds.

My stomach felt strange and my palms were clammy. Having the motorcyclist`s view stamped on my mind, I was terrified. Of course, it`s not really a fear of being in a shrine; it`s the view of what happens there - faceless voices talking to me. My sense of security was screamingly absent.

Smoke and heat swirled around the room as I made my way in. A charcoal stove kept aglow all the time for easier melting of a few grammes of ghee, one of the ingredients Kityo employs. Inside were two youthful clients that had issues with their teeth. I watched their treatment.

Kityo grabbed a small black pot and cleaned it with a few broom sticks and water to remove any contamination from the last user. He then dropped herbs into the pot before adding a hot piece of charcoal and the ghee. He quickly crowned the pot brim with a circular woven lid with a little opening through which clients inhaled the odour.

The odour was choking. Throughout the procedure, coughing, spitting and squinting of teary eyes were highlights. The inhaling took 15-20 minutes until the fire died out. He uncovered the pot and using a pair of hooked metal, removed a tiny brown or pale white substance that had collected at the bottom.

“This is the dirt from your teeth,” he told a client, urging her to go home and rest and call him later to confirm whether her teeth had healed. The client, with a happy face but bloodshot eyes from the piercing smoke, parted with Shs 50,000 and started chewing on a green apple she had carried along.

Kityo said he has been at this job for 10 years and his medication caters for all age groups.

“I learnt from my father who had over 30 years` experience and I am not willing to let it go because it will be a shame,” he said.

Asked about the medicine he uses, he said he cannot disclose them, because there are many quacks that could adopt it and con people. On average, he receives 20 clients a day according to his visitors` book that every client must sign.

Kityo is among the authentic healers registered under National Council of Traditional Healers and Herbalists Association (NACOTHA). A traditional healer is defined by the Traditional Healers and Modern Practitioners Together against Aids (THETA), as one who is recognized by his community and uses native knowledge handed down from generation to generation either orally or spiritually to alleviate all forms of human suffering.

However, the recent wave of ritual murders, including child sacrifice, has prompted parliamentarians to ask government to enact a law regulating the activities and practices of traditional healers and herbalists. The only law governing the operation of traditional healers is the Witchcraft Act of 1964, which stipulates penalties against intended acts of harm.

Dr Gerald Mutungi, the commissioner for non-communicable diseases in the health ministry, said some organizations register and present as traditional healers when they are not and are deceiving and conning people through the media. To stop this, Mutungi says the ministry is collaborating with the police to crack down on fake healers.

As such, all traditional healers will have to surrender their licences for fresh registration. Dr Yahaya Sekagya, the director PROMETRA, a local NGO working with traditional healers, said many fake healers are present because there are no patent rights for traditional healers and so authentic knowledge is easily counterfeited.

He says many of the fakes have a tendency of resorting to witchcraft.

“These conmen claim to have the power to make people rich or even cure illnesses such as HIV/Aids and often advertise in newspapers so as to woo the gullible. After promising to make their victims rich, they take off with the clients` money,” he said.

He, however, said traditional medicine is reliable because it is based on a holistic approach to life.

“Most Ugandans will resort to traditional medical practitioners for their health problems because of its cost effectiveness and local availability,” Dr Karim Musaasizi, NACOTHA`s general secretary, says.

Traditional healing is linked to wider belief systems and remains integral to the lives of most Ugandans. People consult traditional healers whether or not they can afford Western medical services.

© 2013 AllAfrica, All Rights Reserved

Traditional Healers - a Blessing or Curse?
November 04, 2012

Traditional healers from around the world march to the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban to demand a greater say in the fight against AIDS July 12, 2000. REUTERS

Nov 04, 2012 (Tanzania Daily News/All Africa Global Media) -- IN a routine survey, our reporter came across traditional medicine advertisements in Dar es Salaam, showing that they have a cure of some chronic ailments, where any such attempt was unsuccessfully made with conventional medicines.

The owners of such adverts often place them at bus stops and market places, where a good number of people will see them. The adverts also carry telephone number contacts. It is not unusual that some of the traditional healers or herbalists also advertise in the media for as little as 1,000/-.

This is a healthy business promotion. According to the survey, the herbalists said that the most common complaint is erectile dysfunction, a terrible condition that reduces men to virtually nothing when it comes to manhood. To a lesser extent, they also claim to have effective cure for high blood pressure and diabetes. Some of the traditional healers even claimed to possess medicine for love, money and fortune for job hunters.

A number of interviewees also admitted that often they cast bad spirits from customers who visit them for this particular service. In the print and electronic media, the healers claim to have a cure for infertility and bedwetting, a cause of sorrow among many a woman.

Our survey also established that a patient seeking traditional medicine treatment pays 10,000/- as consultation fee and 35,000/- as minimum fee when looking for erectile dysfunction cure. Treatment aside, when our reporter went further to assess the environment in which the healers administer their medicines, he found that these mostly “took refuge” in the city`s slums where running water is a nightmare and garbage an eyesore. Proper hygiene was highly questionable.

All the same, the interviewees were legal traditional medicine practitioners with valid certificates issued by the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. We don`t have any quarrel with traditional men and women. Their existence depends on whether or not, people consult them when facing health problems. They would automatically vanish if nobody sought their service.

However, with the increasing needs for a solution to erectile dysfunction in men and infertility in women, chances are that many people may be losing quite a fortune to the medicine men and women. Nobody, except the healers, knows the truth about the dispensed medicine, its composition, efficacy, side effects and such things as date of expiry and actual dosage.

Being on the disadvantage side also means that a patient only pays money to the healer without a slightest hint of the value of the prescribed medicine. For instance, do women really bear children thereafter? Are the men satisfied there is finally a cure? The environment allows such questions because there are no standards and conditions for the healers to adhere to.

Even the council itself seems to have been taken for a ride and has completely forgotten that there is a directive barring traditional healers from advertising their services. Whether there is cure for the set of ailments causing discomfort to a lot of people as claimed by the herbalists, it is up to those who seek their service.

It is, however, the responsibility of the council to make a follow up on the activities of the licenced healers in order to protect desperate people from possible swindlers. Where necessary, if it can be proved that the healers` services are doubtful, they should be banned altogether.

© 2012 AllAfrica, All Rights Reserved

Traditional healers and their medicine to be formalised
Pretoria News
February 13, 2013

Mozambican Curandeira (witch doctor) Marta Sandra Nhanthumbu (L) performs a cleaning ceremony in Maputo September 29, 2010. Marta Sandra Nhanthumbu is a traditional African witch doctor, and encourages a spirit to enter her body. In Mozambique traditional healers are very popular among locals. RETUERS/ Goran Tomasevic

THE first steps towards the recognition of traditional healers and the formalising of the medicine they dispense was taken yesterday when the Ministry of Health inaugurated the newly elected interim Council for Traditional Health Practitioners.

The 20-member council, which will be in office for three years, is made up of members from all nine provinces and also has representatives of stakeholder bodies, including the Health Professions Council and the SA Pharmaceutical Council.

It has representatives of all four cornerstones of traditional health care - diviners, healers, traditional birth attendants and herbalists. The work of the representatives in their communities will include ensuring that quality service is delivered to the public and that bogus practitioners are identified and flushed out.

When introducing the council yesterday, Deputy Health Minister Gwen Ramokgopa said the role of traditional healers in the promotion of health could not be denied and their influence in society could not be ignored.

“Many public health-care facilities work with traditional health- care practitioners to control childhood illnesses and they are instrumental in the treatment of HIV, TB and mental illnesses,” she said.

Traditional health practitioners also sat on hospital boards, school governing bodies and other community structures across the country, and were active in some advisory teams in the department, Ramokgopa said.

Among the tasks of the council was to establish a national register for recognised and authentic traditional health practitioners to be run from provinces.

Newly elected chairman Conrad Tshane said the issue of bogus healers was an urgent one: “We will want to establish who is authentic and who is not. We will have a code of conduct and those found not be authentic will be dealt with.”

The council would develop systems to investigate the authenticity of healers and would establish relations with other countries to deal with healers who came in claiming to have been trained elsewhere.

At the heart of the formation of the council was the protection of the public, Ramokgopa said. The council would ensure that traditional health practice complied with universal health-care norms and values. The Medicines Control Council had up to now played a |limited role in the registration of traditionally produced medicine, and the new framework would increase their involvement.

© 2013 Independent Newspapers (Pty) Ltd

Beware of Traditional Healers, Doctors Warn
by Simon Musasizi
November 06, 2009

A traditional healer shouts slogans during a march in Johannesburg November 22, 2006. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Kampala, Nov 06, 2009 (The Observer/All Africa Global Media) -- Traditional healers have once again come into the spotlight for allegedly being responsible for the declining usage of modern health services in the country.

According to health service providers who met at Lake View Hotel in Mbarara for a one day workshop organised by the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) under the theme `Delivering quality health through innovative partnerships`, traditional healers are undermining the medical workers` efforts of taking health services closer to the people by advertising their services.

“The utilisation of modern medicine has reduced,” says Dr. Tumwesigye T. Benson, the HCT(HIV Counselling and Testing) National Coordinator Ministry of Health says.

According to Dr. Grace Nambatya Kyeyune, the Director of Research Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory, Ministry of Health, it is wrong for traditional healers to advertise themselves.

“They give an impression that there is no legal entity to regulate that. Yet the National Drug Act is very clear on advertising. Advertising is allowed but when audited,” she says.

According to Kyeyune, there is a department at National Drug Authority (NDA) where one is supposed to submit an intended advert for vetting to establish whether it meets ethical standards.

“It is not like you are priding in people falling sick. Some adverts can be negative on health. When [someone] says I want to fatten you, you may fatten someone who is prone to diabetes,” she told The Observer.

“It (advertisement by traditional healers) has a negative impact because when one is sick, they are also sick in the mind.

They can go for anything. You can easily compromise a sick person`s mind. It is really bad to give false hope,” she says.

There have been efforts aimed at bridging the gap between traditional healers and modern health practitioners.

This has resulted in projects such as Traditional and Modern Health Practitioners Together Against AIDS (THETA) aimed at collaborative efforts against the disease. However, modern health practitioners still accuse traditional healers of instilling false hope among people by claiming to do everything.

“It is bad to go into things you are not trained in, for example taking people`s blood samples,” Nambatya said.

Government intervention

“We are trying hard to sensitise the community who are our target because it`s difficult to arrest [culprits]. We know some whose medicine has worked well but there are those who have caused havoc.

People go there and die there. They can`t be monitored well,” Dr. Tumwesigye noted.

Tumwesigye also commented on churches, some of which, he said, advocate exclusive reliance on prayer for all medical problems.

“When people go to traditional healers, they still seek some assistance in our health centres, but with the churches, only prayer can do,” he said. “They can get spiritual and social support from churches but that cannot work alone without being complemented by modern medicine.”

According to Nambatya, government is working on a policy that will regulate traditional healers.

“The private public partnership policy, if it passes into a law, will mandate regulation of traditional healers,” she said.

The regional workshops, according to Emily Katarikawe, Managing Director of UHMG, are aimed at enabling medical workers at the lower level to contribute to the coming policy.

“Our mandate is to work with the private sector. Since we started, we have been having national level conferences.

This year, we had the third conference under the theme, `Delivering quality services through partnerships`,” Katarikawe said.

“We have realised that there is need for health providers at the lower level, at sub regional level to get exposed to the national curriculum guideline and also to support and participate in the discussions happening in the country on public private partnership,” she added.

© 2009 AllAfrica, All Rights Reserved


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