Traditional healers plead for access to Zim patients

Traditional healers in Zimbabwe’s southern Masvingo province have called on the government to allow them to visit public hospitals to administer herbs to patients who are otherwise not getting much help from the state institutions because of a shortage of medicines.

An acute foreign-currency shortage has seen state hospitals without essential medical drugs that are imported. In many cases, public hospitals can only give patients ordinary painkillers at a time when the HIV/Aids pandemic is wrecking havoc in the country, killing at least 2 000 people every week.

“Our forefathers used to treat several ailments using traditional medicine and we believe the same can be done today,” said Daniel Dambakuwa, the spokesperson of the Masvingo chapter of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association (Zinatha).

Dambakuwa said his association has formally approached the ministry of health, which runs public hospitals, to be allowed access to the health facilities and is awaiting response from the ministry.

“Many people are dying because the country has run short of essential drugs … we want to do this not for financial gain, but to save human life,” said the traditional healer.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa could not be immediately reached for comment on the matter. But Parirenyatwa, himself a medical doctor, has in the past castigated some members of Zinatha for administering toxic and untested substances to patients. 

Although admitting traditional medicine could be helpful to Zimbabweans, especially in remote rural areas, Parirenyatwa insists that there is need for thorough research into the medicine before it can be freely allowed in hospitals.

The Zimbabwe government has no foreign currency to import critically needed medicines, fuel, electricity and food.

Critics blame the foreign currency and economic crisis on repression and wrong economic policies by President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party, in power since independence from Britain 25 years ago.

The veteran president denies the charge and instead blames Zimbabwe’s problems on economic sabotage by Western countries he says are out to fix his government for seizing land from white farmers and giving it over to landless blacks.—ZimOnline

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