Traditional healers in Limpopo have said that they requested a meeting with the Department of Health in the province to deliberate on the role they should play in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. They claim that they do not have amenities such as gloves and masks and because they are the first call for help in rural villages, they expose their lives to danger.

However, the Department of Health, though acknowledging their concerns, said that this request is not a right afforded to these traditional healers and cited the fact that the Coronavirus was a new condition and needed to be handled with care. The department further said they will, when they are visiting rural communities, contact the traditional healers so they could assist the department in fighting the disease.

The chairperson of the Traditional Healers Association in SADC, Silvester Hlathi, said that they are the first to be contacted by residents in rural villages and with a lack of resources and information about the disease, the lives of traditional healers are placed in peril. He said that they treat hundreds of patients per day and if they do not have information about the disease they place the lives of both themselves and their patients in danger.

He said that in the past, traditional healers could protect themselves from further infection with the use of herbs, most of which are no longer available. According to him, the department must provide them with gloves as well as more details about the disease, so they can protect themselves.

Limpopo Health MEC, Dr Phophi Ramathuba said that the concerns of traditional leaders were understandable, but this was not the right time. “They see patients every day and they know the ABC of what they should do, or not, when they are handling infectious diseases. Panic makes them wonder what is happening and when we will be going to rural areas, we will need their help.”

A traditional healer from Giyani, Martha Ndlovu, said that since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the number of their regular customers had dwindled because people are living in fear after being told to self-isolate. She said that the government should provide them with masks and the necessary information regarding the ailment.

***Editor’s note: A Sangoma is a traditional medicine practitioner. Sangomas communicate with ancestors, work with plant medicine (herbalism) and use the power of prayer for healing. While most practice all three, you will find some that work solely with one or any combination of these methods.

In a time when an international pandemic threatens the entire planet, is this really the time for the health fraternity to entertain these methods? Let us know your thoughts on the matter by engaging in the Facebook discussion on our page.

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