Health Related Problems

African Tradional Hebalist Healings

Native Traditional Healings practices existed in Africa long before conventional medicine, and attempts by colonial governments and early religious missionaries to suppress it did not succeed. As an untapped reservoir of knowledge, philosophy and history, traditional medicine not only offers the possibility of cures, but it also provides a national heritage and a means of linking the land and its people.


In sub-Saharan Africa today, traditional healers far outnumber modern health practitioners, and the majority of the population uses traditional medicine. Most of the people in low-and middle-income countries rely primarily on traditional medicine for their primary health-care needs. Although the actual number of traditional healers is unknown in most countries, such heal-ers constitute a significantly large group of practitioners who are recognized, trusted and respected by their respective communities.


Traditional Healing of Medically Unsolved Problems?

Traditional healing practice is an important and integral part of healthcare systems in almost all countries of the world. Majority of the community members, especially people of low socioeconomic status, first approached the traditional healers with their medical problems. Only after failure of such treatment did they move to qualified physicians for modern treatment. Interestingly, if this failed, they returned to the traditional healers.


Traditional healing was widely practiced as the means of primary healthcare in rural areas of Africa, especially among the people with low socioeconomic status. The extent of services showed no decline with the advancement of modern medical sciences; rather it has increased with the passage of time.


Traditional healers make a unique contribution that is complementary to other approaches. They also tend to be the entry point for care in many African communities, and even more so for the complex health related diseases that frequently jolt family dynamics and shake community stability. Traditional healers often have high credibility and deep respect among the population they serve. They are knowledgeable about local treatment options, as well as the physical, emotional and spiritual lives of the people, and are able to influence behaviours.


raditional healers provide client-centred, personalized health care that is tailored to meet the needs and expectations of their patients. This makes them strong communication agents for health and social issues. They have greater credibility than do village health workers, especially with respect to social and spiritual matters. They, thus, make valuable supporters and imple-menters of development initiatives. In resource-constrained settings, traditional medicine provides access to treatment where expensive imported pharmaceuticals cannot. Moreover, in some contexts, traditional medicine has been found to be as effective as biomedical treatment.


Traditional Medicine in sub-Saharan Africa

The majority of populations in Africa have access to only traditional health care. Traditional healers are well known in their communities for their expertise in treating many sexually trans-mitted infections (STIs).


African traditional medicine encompasses a diverse range of practices, including herbalism and spiritualism, and traditional healers represent a range of individuals who call themselves diviners, priests, faith healers or bone-setters, among others. The term ‘traditional healer’ used here, though an oversimplification of a complex range of practices, refers to either herbalists, spiritu-alists or to those (the great majority of healers) involved in both realms.


African traditional healers reflect the great variety of cultures and belief systems on the continent, and possess equally varied experience, training and educational backgrounds. This diversity is further enhanced by their adaptation to the dramatic social changes that have affected much of the region since colonization, such as urbanization, globalization, population migration and dis-placement, and civil conflicts. Whenever African healers’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices about major diseases have been explored, findings have reflected the stage of the epidemic, the amount of information these healers have been exposed to, and their pre-existing belief systems about health and disease in general.

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