modernizing traditional remedies


(photo: Traditional surgery, not in the sense of cutting people open – just means it is a place of traditional medicine practice.)

6 June 2008
There hasn’t been much that I have cared to write on for the past few days. I am building an HIV/AIDS curriculum for peer education from the Peace Corps Life Skills curriculum. The Peace Corps program is very good with excellent activities and info. The classes were supposed to start today, but will be pushed back a week because kids didn’t show up on time – so it became freedom of expression day with singing, drawing, and poetry reading. But I am excited to start and contribute to youth leadership development in such a critical and controversial subject.

In the past 2 weeks, 3 people have passed because of HIV and AIDS that we have been directly informed of because the Buthelezi family has been close to the deceased – a father, an aunt, and a neighbor. Living in an HIV positive community is so different when you can fully understand the impact of just one life.


(photo: Traditional doctor’s office, 2 years of formal training)

Celumusa told us today that all the health clinics do is give out painkiller tablets for everything. She often just goes to the chemist (pharmacist) to tell them what is wrong and to get something that will actually help. I inquired about the herbalist and surgeon – same building that we passed in Zone 3 – Celumusa is skeptical of the herbalist. Today she returned from Sandonga with a paper flyer for a “traditional” healer who claims to help with 65 diseases including HIV/AIDS. Supposedly the South African government gives witch doctors certificates in the hopes of finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. Yet another example of their [the government’s] absurdity. Mr. Ndaba told us that Mbeki and Zuma are supposedly coming to Zonke for the upcoming elections. That should be interesting.

Reflections 6 July 2009:
This is a very different picture of traditional medicine than what I saw and studied in Ghana. Here traditional medicinal practice is more associated with the spirits and evil (muti in isiZulu) as opposed to healing processes that are trusted to work, like I saw in Ghana. There were plenty of stories about the frightening things that might happen to small children who upset a Sangoma (“witch” doctor), etc. However, I did see some traditional medicinal practices being employed by the grandmother (Goko) and mother. One such traditional remedy turned modern was using a ball of toothpaste or soap (inserted into the anus) to cleanse the body. Nothing like a little soap to clean out your system of sickness. Regardless of the views I received from neighbors and community members about traditional medicine and doctors there were plenty of locations to visit the practitioners of traditional medicine.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi! I just wanted to say I am very much enjoying reading backward through your blog- really informative. I also took your favorite books list and I'm heading to the library! I really like Farmer, and I think it's time to revisit Pathologies of Power. I'm interested in working in Africa, and I hope to become both a birth doula & get an MA in medical anthropology. (I'm working on a BA in social justice right now). Anyway, just saying thank you for your blog, it's always nice to know you have readers who care about what you're writing.gira ubuntu!

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