Ngamiland Head of the District Health Management Team (DHMT), Dr Christopher Chembe, says the health sector in the district is worried by the spiraling number of cases involving patients who prefer to seek assistance from traditional healers, even when affected by life threatening diseases such as Malaria and Diarrhea which are common in Ngamiland.
Speaking during a press conference, Chembe said religion in this part of the country is playing a very negative impact, and that many people’s lives have been put at risk as a result.
He said they very much suspect there might be HIV positive people out there who despite having been enrolled on ARV treatment still do not take their medication. However, Chembe made it understandable that while they (health sector) do not in any way undermine the competency of traditional healers, there is still need for them to verify their claims by way of allowing patients to further do medical check-ups, rather than making them part with their medication.
“We want to discourage early seeking behaviors, and so we will always want evidence. We had a case recently whereby a pastor escorted a child here, claiming to have cured him of HIV/AIDS. We tried to reason with him, but he was adamant that indeed the patient was healed. This left us with no choice but to seek the intervention of social workers, and luckily the child was put back on treatment,” he said.
The DHMT has decided to convene a meeting with traditional healers from the entire Ngamiland in Toteng village to discuss issues surrounding them, and perhaps find amicable solutions.
Sharing Chembe’s sentiments was the Chief Health Officer (preventive services) Gasebotho Kedikilwe who said there is need for traditional healers to have a buy-in into efforts made by the health sector.
She said that until that concept sinks into their way of understanding, the sector will be doomed, as they will be seen to be fighting a losing battle.
She added that there is need for their kind of medicines to be laboratory checked, as there has been an observation that most of their herbs carry high amounts of sugar, and in some cases with alcohol content.
“We also want to make all traditional healers as well as faith based healers aware of the fact that diarrhea is a condition that dehydrates children, who therefore need to be given high amounts of water and not herbs. It is not always easy to put sense into them, but we will continue to consult them,” said Kedikilwe.
However, Chembe said that there has been good amount of interaction from the side of private medical practitioners, whom they decided to slot in at a meeting held at Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital last year.
“We have always called them from time to time whenever there was need, and we hope to meet them soon, so that we collaboratively work on the management of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. It is also worth noting that private practitioners are important stakeholders in the health delivery system, and so I can confidently say their support is so encouraging,” he said.
Since January to date, Chembe said the district has recorded 72 cases of malaria, in which two people died.
He said this is a high number as compared to the 52 cases recorded this time last year, whereby only one person died.
As of diarrhea, he said they have so far recorded 1969 cases and four deaths. In 2012 they recorded 1111 cases and 16 deaths.