THE case of Leonard Jilitu, Nyihogo Ward Chairman in Kahama District, illustrates the effectiveness of traditional medicines against suspicion on their power to cure illnesses which still baffle the modern medical science and, which indeed many doctors find mysterious and have no cure for.
“I suffered for six months with kidney problems, but when I went to Aga- Khan Hospital in Mwanza they failed to treat me. I heard about this traditional clinic and came,” Jilitu explains. By Jilitu’s account, traditional healers also use modern scientific gadgets. The magic lies in their medicine. “They checked me using a computer. Then they prescribed for me food to eat like cabbage, boiled banana and fruits. I was also given roots medicine…since then I am completely fine.”
Traditional medicine is popular in rural and urban communities due to beliefs. High cost of living, which has made medical treatment unaffordable to many people, is another reason for the popularity of the customary medicines. Other factors notwithstanding, long distance to a local health facility has also pushed many people towards traditional medicine, which to most rural people, is more readily available.
It is estimated that over 80 per cent of rural people in Tanzania depend on traditional healers for their primary health care needs. Since the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in the country allowed treatment through traditional medicines, clinics and shops, which give that service are increasing daily. Healing is done through a balanced diet like eating a good meal, fruits, plants and roots medicine, and drinking a large amount of water.
Many people have been treated and they are now completely free from several diseases. Having been cured of his longstanding health problem with traditional medicines Mr Jilitu took his grandmother to the clinic to be treated for ulcers treatment after his health improvement. “My mother was in a very bad condition because she relieved herself wherever she was. Doctors at Bakwata hospital where I took her three times said she was suffering from a heart disease and she did not get any better.
Her health state changed after I took her to Victoria Natural Therapy Clinic,” he admitted. The doctor at the clinic used only garlic, which she ate three times per day for seven days including fruits, cucumber, water melon, cabbage and a good balanced diet. Victory Natural Therapy Clinic is one of the traditional clinics in the district using the new technology for check up by a computer. Ms Zainabu Ayubu, another patient, went to the traditional clinic for a cure of heart attack and explains: “I went twice to the District hospital and was told that I had diabetes.
Days passed but without any improvement… I went to the traditional herbalist and now I feel well.” Ms Ayubu says she paid 75,000/- of which 15,000/- was for the computer machine check up and 60,000/- was for the medicines and treatment. The clinic had been suggested to her by some friends of hers.
Presently Ms Ayubu’s daughter is taking a medicine prescribed for her by a doctor at the clinic. Another Kahama resident Mr Seif Mporogama was impressed by the fact that the basic and major treatment the clinic provides is only by using fruits and plants. Mporogama’s daughter is on a dose prescribed by the clinic for pains in her legs. Victory Natural Therapy Clinic is among the trusted clinic in the district which treats different kinds of diseases except HIV/AIDS.
It provides also advice on what can be the best diet to increase immunity. The centre receives more than 200 patients per week since it was established May this year. Dr Daniel Daud Umbuh is a professional of the traditional medicines from Arusha working at the clinic. He says the area’s most common big health problems are caused by poor diet, traditional beliefs and sexual transmitted diseases (STDs).
“For the short time I have worked in the area, I have discovered that more than 80 per cent of the people suffer from bleeding and pregnant complications including other diseases,” Dr Umbuh said. Dr Umbuh advises people to go for traditional treatment and learn about good diet through radio programmes. When the treatment fails, he further advises, they should seek treatment at a government hospital or, to be sure of the problem, they should go there for further check up.
Dr Umbuh and his other staff members learn how to treat people using traditional medicines from the Agape College in Tabata suburb, Dar es Salaam. Other Victory Clinic branches in the country are in Morogoro and Dar es Salaam. Sheikh Yasin Shaban owns a traditional medicine store in the district, Majengo Street.
He treats patients with stomachache, diarrhoea, blood pressure, diabetes and birth complications. He uses plant roots, Herbert soda and other medicinal plants for treatment. In 2002, the Act No.23 was enacted by the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania to make provisions for the promotion, control and regulation of traditional and alternative medicines practice, to establish the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council and to provide for related matters.
This Act may be cited as the Traditional and Alternative Medicines Act, 2002, and shall apply to traditional and alternative health practitioners and aides. The Act 23 has established the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council, composed of a legally qualified persons from the Attorney General’s Chambers, four registered traditional health practitioners and two registered alternative health practitioners.
A Registrar of the Council is appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Council and acts as the Secretary to the Council. The functions of the Council are to monitor, regulate, promote and support the development of traditional medicine and to implement the provisions of the Act.
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