In Tanzania’s Zanzibar region a council that includes birth attendants, respected healers, village elders and lawyers approve traditional healer applications each month. Traditional healers with their tool kits of herbs, holy scriptures and massages are being registered by authorities who are attempting to regulate them.
So far approx. 340 practionners have been registered according to Reuters, with an estimated 2,000 more healers set to register. To be registered, healers must be at least 18 years old, a minimum of three years of experience and have a recommendation letter from a trained healer.
The government states that registration is not about dictating what practices or techniques can be used by the healers but as a means of ensuring quality control. This is in accordance to the country’s Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act which regulates traditional and alternative medicines practice and establishes the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council.
The functions of the Council shall generally be to monitor, regulate, promote, support the development of traditional medicine and to implement the provisions of the Act and in particular shall, among other things, provide for the protection of Tanzanian medicinal plants, and other natural resources of medicinal value.
Traditional healer Bi Mwanahija Mzee told Reuters, “A group facilitated by the registrar’s office links doctors with traditional healers to give them some medical education on specific diseases like hypertension, diabetes and pregnancy. The Mgangas (Swahili for healers) share information with the doctors about patient statistics and needs”.
Healers remain a necessity for a citizenry that feels they do not receive proper treatments from the hospitals in the region. This has some merit as the doctors and nurses in the hospitals are often over extended.
Additionally, reports indicate that locals are often unable to afford the medicine prescribed, or they may stop taking it before the course is finished, leading them to relapse and adding to their suspicion of government-run facilities.
“People come here because I actually help them. I met many patients that went to the hospital first and got no help or the medicine didn’t work,” said Mwanahija Mzee who uses a mix of massages, medicines from roots, herbs and leaves and Koranic verses.