Traditional healers feel left out in fight against Covid-19_1

While the country has been called to unite in the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, traditional healers feel like they are being left out of the battle. Clinicians, pathology laboratories and medical experts have been working with the health ministry during the outbreak that has now infected 709 South Africans. But traditional healers, who were the majority of healthcare providers in South Africa, were not included in the crisis plans. According to Solly Nduka, the general secretary of the National Unitary Professional Association for African Traditional Health Practitioners of South Africa (NUPAATHPSA) and national sector leader of...
While the country has been called to unite in the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, traditional healers feel like they are being left out of the battle.

Clinicians, pathology laboratories and medical experts have been working with the health ministry during the outbreak that has now infected 709 South Africans. But traditional healers, who were the majority of healthcare providers in South Africa, were not included in the crisis plans.

According to Solly Nduka, the general secretary of the National Unitary Professional Association for African Traditional Health Practitioners of South Africa (NUPAATHPSA) and national sector leader of the South African National AIDS Council’s (SANAC) Civil Society Forum and Traditional Health Practitioners Sector (THP), the ratio of western doctors to traditional healers was 1:9 in South Africa.

He says they have been working well with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on various health issues, but seem to have been dumped since the Covid-19 outbreak came into the country.

“We have over 350,000 indigenous traditional healers in South Africa but we are not consulted in order to assist. It is sad because we are the majority of health workers in the country, particularly in the rural areas where some don’t have clinics or the clinics are closed at night,” said Nduku.

During the national lockdown, no one may leave their homes, except to get food or medical services.

But there was no directive on those who would rather opt to see a traditional healer than a western doctor.

“There is an urgent need for clarity. Traditional medicine has proven to be effective against ailments and overlooking it is simply an infringement of the right to access traditional healthcare and additionally the right to cultural and traditional practice.”

While there is no cure for the Covid-19 virus, they say there are traditional medicines that could assist in fighting related symptoms.

“Indigenous medicines that fight symptoms of the flu and fever are available. There should be channels to assist with access to well-known traditional medicine prescribed by traditional healers. We also recognise that it is important that all necessary precautions are taken including washing of hands with soap for 20 seconds and social distancing which must be adhered to,” said Nduku.

People might choose to consult any health care worker of their choice, said Health Professions Council of South Africa president Dr Kgosi Letlape told The Citizen.

“If I had been using a traditional healer for colds and flus, which Covid-19 has similar symptoms, I will continue going there. If I went to a clinic, or pharmacy, or general practitioner, I will still go there. They are healthcare providers and people will use them at their own discretion.”

Meanwhile, Nduku calls on traditional healers to postpone rituals, ceremonies, rites of passage and spiritual and traditional gatherings during the 21-day lockdown.

“This is also for the safety of yourselves, your initiates and your communities.”

rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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