More Dar women using traditional healers compared to rural peers

25Dec 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
More Dar women using traditional healers compared to rural peers

OVER 20 percent of urban based women in the country consulted traditional healers to seek pregnancy termination compared to 17 percent of their rural peers, a study published in the BMJ Global Health journal, stated.

A traditional healer in southern parts of the country holding a ritual stick.

Researchers conducted a literature review of 180 peer-reviewed articles on traditional complementary and alternative medicines (TCAM) in Sub Sahara Africa region between 2006 and 2017 said 22 percent of urban Tanzanian women sought assistance from traditional practitioners.

“From Zambia to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Mali, sick people pursued TCAM to cure illnesses as varied as hypertension, diabetes, malaria, cancer, ophthalmic conditions, pre-surgery care, as well as mental and neurological diseases,” the report stated.

While there were no uniform characteristics among alternative medicine users across sub-Saharan Africa, clients were more likely to have lower educational levels and socio-economic status. The study also showed many patients didn’t disclose their use of alternative remedies when they visited healthcare providers in clinics and hospitals.

Despite extensive use of traditional medicine, there continues to be a low understanding of its spread and impact, the authors said. With the lack of university-trained doctors and crucial resources, healthcare systems across Africa are already in bad shape.

For instance, the ratio of traditional healers to the population in Africa is 1:500 whereas the ratio of medical doctors to population is 1:40,000, according to the World Health Organization.

This has pushed the global health body to introduce an ongoing, decade-long effort to strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy. Several universities and health colleges across the continent have also integrated complementary medicine into their programs and have trained healers in mainstream medicine so that they could better treat their patients.

For generations, traditional medicine has been used to prevent and treat physical and mental ailments across Africa. Yet the first systematic review into the use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicines (TCAM) in sub-Saharan Africa shows a significant use and adoption of these practices among diverse demographics across the continent.

The researchers from University of Sierra Leone, the University of Technology, Sydney, and College of Natural Health in Brisbane found both general populations and major health subsets use complementary medicine due to its lower costs and accessibility, belief in their natural status, word of mouth recommendations, or because of the treatment’s association with a patient’s cultural or spiritual beliefs.

Aggressive marketing drives also continue to hype herbal medicine presenting them as better options to manage diseases. The various types of alternative medicine employed included herbal medicine, faith-based healing, besides mind-body treatments that involved massage and chiropractic.

The study, which mostly sampled from Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and South Africa, showed traditional medicine was used during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum stages.