Thursday, October 22, 2009
Cultural and psychological factors (part 1/4)
Historically, the peoples of southern Africa have used Traditional Healers (TH) to aid them in terms of health and to help them improve their life situation in various ways. Access to Government health services and ‘Western’ medicine remains low in many areas, and the use of TH is widespread and for many it remains a 1st choice. It has been documented that TH have developed many remedies using herbs and plants which alleviate their patients’ problems, although it is often dismissed by Western medicine. WHO challenges this, and calls for an integration of traditional medicine into the national health care system and also wants to promote the proper use of traditional medicine by developing and providing international standards, technical guidelines and methodologies.
WHO defines traditional medicine as follows “Traditional medicine as including diverse health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal, and/or mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises applied singularly or in combination to maintain well-being, as well as to treat, diagnose or prevent illness”.
As seen in the WHO definition of traditional medicine, the use of human body parts are not considered part of traditional medicine. Rather, the use of body parts can be considered witchcraft and a harmful traditional practice. Yet, in practice, the terms witchdoctor and Traditional Healer are sometimes used interchangeably. 'Witchcraft' typically refers to malevolent or harmful magic, and is often considered to be a cultural ideology (Klaniczay, 2006). Some informants in this research project made a clear distinction between TH and witchdoctors as seen in a previous post.