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Is traditional medicine properly policed?

Africa HYS team | 12:50 UK time, Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Tanzanian pastor has asked people to stop going to his remote home for a "miracle cure" after thousands flocked there, causing chaos in the surrounding area.

Former Reverend Ambilikile Mwasapile (BBC)  


As word has spread in the past month of the pastor's supposed ability to cure any ailments, some people have even been taken out of hospital by their relatives who believe they are more likely to be cured by the pastor.

Some of these have died before seeing him, while others are reported to have died after taking his concoction.

Belief in the powers of traditional healers are widespread in Tanzania, and elsewhere on the continent.

Was Tanzania's Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda right not to stop the pastor's activities?  Is traditional medicine properly regulated where you are? Do you have faith in traditional medicine?

If you would like to debate this topic LIVE on air on Wednesday 30 March at 1600 GMT, please include a telephone number. It will not be published.


  • Comment number 1.

    I believe in Traditional medicine personally because even before the era of the western Medicines the Africans used traditional medicines for healing people who are sick. There are two different things here that should be clear there are traditional healers and there are also Witchdoctor. I do not believe in the witchdoctors. There several myth about pastors activities are their healing powers of which i do not believe in and of course there could be freedom of worship in countries and if Tz is a case it may not be right to stop the pastor's activities. In Uganda Most people also especially from the North there are several traditional medicines used for specific purposes and they look effective and the patients respond effectively on those drugs and honestly i have never hard of an over doss in this drugs.

  • Comment number 2.

    Traditional healing is common here in Yambio Southern-Sudan where i live.I definitely believe in it because there are live evidences around me and i have many examples that i may not have time to post them here.

    Remember,our forefathers were using traditional ways of healing which were so cheap,effective and properly administered with no side effects as such but only to be cheated by our colonials who robbed our traditional medicines and transform them into the current forms.
    It does not matter whether it is a traditional medicine or non traditional medicine,but what can heal.

  • Comment number 3.

    Two things: healthcare and education. In societies where so-called governments don't consider themselves responsible for even basic healthcare, even the most easily preventable illness becomes life-threatening, and often fatal. And where the educational system (such as it is) can no longer provide a half-decent education to these same people, superstitious beliefs invariably replace reason and science.

  • Comment number 4.

    Traditional healers should be regulated more than Western(modern) trained Doctors. Traditional healers are ill trained and essentially learn by observing. Few literatures exist for refernce. These doctors don't use adequate dosages, their offices are not clean and very unsanitary.
    Who licencse these Traditional Healers? Do they pay taxes? Do they have liability insurance.

  • Comment number 5.

    Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and many African Prime Ministers, as well as Ministers of Public Health would not stop Traditional Healers from operating. In their place I would not stop them either. The reason is simple, what in Africa is called modern or orthodox medicine is or was traditional medicine elsewhere; Europe or America. However, most of these guys are left to operate because they are friends of the Ministers.

    Unfortunately, many are those African folklore that is not documented because of lack of alphabet, lack of interest or simply lack of good will. In this aspect, many are our parents and grand parents who have died and gone with a wealth of information that has not been documented anywhere. One of the rational being that the youth of today are all engage to Wsetern culture to the detriment of their culture.

    Also, many Africans are on a less than $1 (500Fcfa) a day, being unable to feed, talk alone of going to the modern "Integrated Health Centre, District Hospital, or Cental Hospital". To worsen matters, they are very underemployed or not at all, under the pretext of a global economic crises, a claim by most of the heads of government. In the face of all these, they tend to trust in not only the "traditional healers" but aslo "spiritual healers". These are however exhorbitant with their charges, which they claim are tokens, but in conformity with Hosea 4:6, "My people suffer due to lack of knowledge", their homes are flocked on a daily bases by the suffering masses.

    Unfortunately, many are the "traditional healers" and "spiritual healers" who are springing forth nowadays throughout the continent in a bit to make fast cash for themselves. These are really charlatans (fakes) because they ask for consultation and treatment fees, whereas their paraents and grandparents were never dong so. What was meant for free and for the benefit of the community, is now an income generating activity. Even the value of the Arican herbalist has been greatly reduced.

    In the African set, if one consulted a herbalist, h/she would send you to a fortune teller who would diagnose what you are suffering from, before he could prescribe and administer herbs to h/her. This is synonymous to mordern day medicine, where the patient is sent to the medical laboratory for diagnosis or diagnosis confirmation before a medical procedure is carried out. They were never advertising, but nowadays, all the local FM radios and newspapers are have regular advertisment slots for these guys. The catch word of the first time traditional healers was, "a good medicine man is never hidden, he is always known".

    With the above synopsis, I strongly stand for the fact that "traditional healers" and "spiritual healers" should be regulated. The various ethnic groups with good herbs shoul consider establishing their alphabet, documenting their customs and tradtions and recording them in Museums.

  • Comment number 6.

    Unfortunately traditional medicine, especially African traditional medicine does not get the credit it deserves. Unlike Chinese traditional medicine or healing such as acupuncture which has always gotten world respect, African medicines are often quickly dismissed as voodoo, cult or junk science.
    Anyone that knows a thing or two about chemistry know that most, if not all of today’s medicine comes from plants usually found in Brazil and African rainforest.
    Modern medicine is nothing but traditional medicines with fancy names packaged by Pharmaceutical companies. These pharmaceutical companies in returns make billion dollars in profit.
    I am by no means suggesting that every traditional healer/medicine should be taken seriously. It should be noted that just as there are counterfeit drugs by some illegal pharmaceutical companies in the world market, there are also quack medicines and healers out there.
    I’m simply suggesting that African traditional healers/medicine should not be so quickly and easily dismissed.

  • Comment number 7.

    Traditional or herbal medicine is part of human development and this can be attested by the success of Chinese Herbal supplements in the market world wide. The popularity of a particular concoction and the dispenser may be the cause of challenge in the case of Tanzanian retired pastor. However, whether the Prime Minister over looked some facts in not stopping the process may be viewed in two ways. Positively it promoted business in the area and definitely there was a gain as witnessed by the large numbers and security provided. On the negative, we may say the government should have verified quality of the ingredients in relation to human health. On the other side, the media may have been used to hype the situation and therefore, what has been exhibited could have been stage managed.

  • Comment number 8.

    Personally I have alot of Faith in Traditional medicine although at times there are alot of misgivings about the all show but nevertherless, tradional medicine has its own part to play in the mordern day society. People had relied a long time ago for traditional medicineto protect and restore their health and I think even in mordern times times, it has still has a very vital rule. Moreover The herb more effective for long-standing health complaints. The side affects also few and it means more suitable to our health.
    Nomatter the advantage incure in traditional medicine, I very much think that just like any other product, traditional medicine ought tobe well POLICED and REGULATED in other to stop chalantants to invade the sector. This most especially is what I fine still lacking in my Country.

  • Comment number 9.

    Until i witnessed the power of the cure given by Ambilikile Mwasapile i never believed on traditional healers, i have seen people who were suffering from Diabetes Mellitus and some other unknown diseases getting cured by the magical cup from the Pastor, i have a feeling that sooner or later the whole world will come to Tanzania to get a cup. Believe me this have never happened before. We have seen Pastors, Ustadhis, MPs and Top government leaders getting the magical cup.

  • Comment number 10.

    Most countries in Africa are run by corrupt and greedy governments who do not care about the health and livelihood of the people the govern thereby leaving them at God's mercy.
    Hospitals without drugs and medical personnel is the way of life in Africa, so when someone comes up with cheap concortions which they claim cure every illness people run to them not out of believe but in desparation.

  • Comment number 11.

    No. I's practically impossible to police. Millions of Africans live rurally where no one really knows whats going on with the sangomas. And we never will as the infrastructure won't allow us. There's many many sangomas on the continent but the rest of the world knows nothing of what they do. Unlike western medicine, Oriental medicine, Acupuncture, Chinese herbs etc, African traditional healers are not mainstream or shall I say recognised anywhere else - but Africa. You can't go and take a 6 mth course on African healing techniques in France for example. But you can go and learn about reflexology almost anywhere in the world. It's not recognised by any medical body anywhere. Even in the countrys it comes from. It's not like it's used in hospitals where there's war victims for instance. And I think it'd fair to say that if it is being practised on another continent you won't be able to claim from it on your medical cover. What I'm trying to put across is this "No one anywhere knows anything about it. Nothing has been proven." And until it has been proven it'll remain unrecognised.

  • Comment number 12.

    That is typically undermining science and innovation! There is enough biblical teaching supporting traditional healing but that being practiced by the pastor is typically backward, unhygienic and unscientific! The government should intervene to save lives!

  • Comment number 13.

    Recently there has been a lot of interest in bringing traditional healing at par with western medicine across Africa. This is a good development as we cannot continue to depend on one theory of healthcare especially since Western mode of healthcare cannot be applied to all health conditions of Africans. Everywhere people invent their own way of dealing with their environment and when an individual is made to go through healthcare procedure incompatible with their own cultural beliefs problems may occur and the healthcare model may not work. The health seekingbehaviours of Africans across the continent suggest a need to upgrade traditional healing. Western critics would say there are many things wrong with African traditional healing. They pay too much emphasis on the negative aspects forgetting that Western healthcare practitioners also are full of abusive practices and exagerrations.

  • Comment number 14.

    Prime minister or rather government should stop these healers as now everyone is claiming to have received some vision dreams from whatever sources to heal people through their magical herbs and duping Tanzanian people . Though typically, not government duty to interfere in faith issues of her citizens, but chaos is looming if situation is left unchecked.

  • Comment number 15.

    okay as much as people on this site feel it is vital for them to speak for every part of Africa, which in some cases is appropriate, I believe in issues such as these, speak only about the areas you have observed because Africa is huge and not everything is the same everywhere. I guess it is safe to say that Africans were healing diseases before the missionaries, traders, and colonial "masters" came! I also believe that even in the west, they didn't have packaged drugs a while back and yet they healed people...How was that possible? Uhmm it would make sense to say that it all started somewhere and a lot of it not in a research lab. Even penicillin is a natural medicine, produced by fungi. from that point of veiw, traditional medicines are not bad. What's bad is witchdoctors who go out doing divinations and all that. The issue is most of the time in Zambia, they come in the same package.

  • Comment number 16.

    Btw, I have used traditional medicine before: something we call itembusha, very good for fungal infection, the west call it aloe vera :)


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