Monday, March 24, 2008

Local Medicine

Local medicine happens here, sometimes called witch doctors. Often you can diagnose a sickle cell patient, by merely noting the small cuts on his body from the local treatment. There's a struggle between patients choosing local treatment vs traditional medicine. One barrier to traditional medicine is the cost, our facility tries to contain cost, but at other facilities you must pay before treatment. Then families can put pressure on loved ones to seek local treatment first, even the educated. The full time doctors told a story of a medical assistant choosing local treatment for his daughter's femur fracture over traditional medicine. It's something very different than America.

Tommy had brought us to a compound, where a man was receiving local medicine for his knee on our Sunday trips to the bush. How it worked out, we went to the compound two Sundays in a row, so we saw two different types of "healing." I'll try to post both pictures of the same guy above. In one picture, multiple small cuts have been made all over the knee. In the second, he has cow dung spread over the knee. In fairness to the man, he had been at our facility at some point, but the doctors were not sure if he had tumor or what, he was referred to go to an orthopedist, but then opted for local treatment.

People believe in witches here, in fact you can be accused of being a witch, and exiled to a witch village. I was privileged yesterday to get a motobike tour around one witch village just 10 km from Nalerigu, in a town called Gambaga. (That does mean I finally got on a moto outside of the BMC compound) We would have had to gotten permission from the chief to do anymore than circle the place on moto, so it wasn't much of a tour. I tried to find out how one gets accused of being a witch, but there is no set way. Often the accusation is made after someone gets sick or dies, the matter is taken before the chief, and sometimes the accused just admits to being a witch or is judged to be a witch. It reminds me very much of the Salem witch trials from our own US history.

There are many little signs of superstitions at homes, from crosses on houses to keep ghosts away or sacrifices put outside the home. They will mark trees they think are bewitched, tying cloth around to hold the evil spirits in.


Anonymous said...

is that a septic joint on that kid with the "witch doctor" marks? that's crazy!!

ESK123 said...

No apparently it's not septic. It has previously been aspirated, and yielded very little fluid. I think there is talk of a tumor.