Kigezi Healthcare Foundation – Official Blog

KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda

KIHEFO – Biomedical science meets traditional medicine

The following article is a guest-post from Canadian medical resident volunteer, Jessica Lee, who spent 1-month working with KIHEFO’s health team in Kabale town-centre and rural Kigezi. 

Crossing through the beautiful Lake Bunyoni, we arrived on the island where one of the head traditional healers of Uganda resides.  We were warmly welcomed with traditional dance and song, and invited into his home.  As we sat on little wooden stools around a fire, the healer shared his art with us.

His ability, he says, was inherited from his father who inherited it from his father.  With it, he is capable of connecting with the spiritual world and relieving the ailments of others.  Most commonly, patients present with psychological and psychiatric problems, and bewitchment.  He is also highly demanded to perform rites at weddings and funerals.  The healer presented some of his medications and tools to us, such as ones that used for leprosy and infertility.  Painkillers are a concoction from various herbs he collected.  His wives perform deliveries.  It is estimated that 80% of Ugandans seek out traditional healers, usually for “unexplained illnesses”, by both high and low income earners.  It is not unusual, therefore, to find a Mercedes Benz parked outside the healer’s home.

Whereas many of “modern society” scorn and disregard traditional healers (“bogus”, “witchcraft”, “phony”), KIHEFO’s director Dr. Anguyo (a physician of modern biomedical science) has formed a unique friendship with the healer.  Recognizing and understanding the meaning and impact of traditional medicine for the local people, rather than speaking ill of traditional medicine, Dr. Anguyo respects it.  Through their alliance, the doctor provides sterile gloves to the midwives for deliveries and the healer now uses individual razor blades rather than the same knife for traditional “cutting” (minimizing the risk of disease transmission and improving hygiene).

Dr. Anguyo’s approach is one to respect and to emulate when it comes to working with traditional medicine (which we find in all cultures).  With respect rather than disdain, patients’ perceptions of health and illness can be better appreciated.  They can hence be better understood and served.

-Jessica Lee (published with permission from her personal blog – Wherever wander lusts)

To learn how YOU can volunteer with KIHEFO in Kabale, Uganda, please visit our website – click here.


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This entry was posted on March 18, 2013 by in Health Outreach, International Volunteers.
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