Traditional healers on new route

TRADITIONAL healers on the West Rand have successfully merged their expertise with Western medicine for the benefit of their patients.

Sizabantu Traditional Healers and Home-based Care, a non-governmental organisation in Bekkersdal, has put the health of its patients first and encourages synergy between the two styles of healing.

"Our core business is healing. This means taking the best out of both worlds," says Sizabantu founder and project manager Sylvia Maguma. "We are also reclaiming the pride and respect that traditional medicine has lost."

The organisation was established in 1992 "out of disease and despondency" in the area.

"People had to travel long distances to hospital and the one clinic in the area could not cope with the number of patients," Maguma says.

She says residents resorted to traditional healers for treating minor ailments and other illnesses such as TB.

"People trusted us with their wellbeing because they were not getting the attention and care they needed at clinics," Maguma says.

Trained by the Department of Health to facilitate the directly observed treatment short course (Dots) programme for TB, the traditional healers visit patients at their homes to ensure that they finish their treatment.

"Fewer people defaulted on their treatment as a result," Maguma says proudly.

The number of community health workers in the organisation has since grown to 65, and reach 600 patients. The group helps those afflicted with HIV-Aids, sexually transmitted infections, high blood pressure, diabetes and epilepsy.

"We don't claim to cure these diseases. We would never encourage people to use traditional medicine instead of the treatment that they get from clinics and hospitals," Maguma says. "There is no reason people can't successfully use both should they need them."

The group conducts home visits, delivering medicines, food parcels and toiletries to the elderly and bedridden.

"We ensure that our patients complete their treatment and also look out for other factors that could impede their wellbeing, such as lack of nutrition and bad living conditions," Maguma says.