With the costs for formal health care skyrocketing at the backdrop of an economic crisis that has seen inflation skyrocketing to more than 700 percent, many Zimbabweans are resorting to traditional medication.
Amos Kafera, a Zimbabwean traditional healer from Chitungwiza, a dormitory town south of the capital Harare, said he is now being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people seeking traditional herbal medicine.
Kafera said demand for traditional medication has also increased recently because health workers from the main referral hospital in Chitungwiza are on strike.
“Chitungwiza Hospital is not accepting patients, people are coming here, I am the one helping people here in Chitungwiza,” he told Xinhua in an interview at his shrine.
Last month doctors and nurses at public institutions began a strike demanding payment of salaries in U.S. dollars.
Kafera, who has in-depth knowledge of herbal materials, said if he plays his cards well there is a possibility that he will find a remedy for COVID-19.”This pandemic is not something that can be solved by one person, we should all find ways to cure it.
That’s what I am doing here.”We are not sure what this pandemic will do but from the medicines that I have here, there is a possibility that I will be able to cure it,” he said.
But Kafera stressed that patients still need to get tested for COVID-19 before they are attended to.”If a patient comes here the first thing that I notice is the intensity of their illness. If they are seriously ill they have to first to go the hospital and get tested.
“I have some medicine that I prescribe if someone comes here with a terrible flue, or with a headache. But first, they have to go to the hospital so that they can be tested to see if they don’t have the virus. So we are mixing both traditional knowledge and Western ways.
“Only after getting tested can they come back here to collect their herbal medicine. I have different kinds of herbs. Some are from Malawi, some are sourced locally,” he said.
The rush for traditional medicine comes as Zimbabwe confirms more than 2,700 cases of COVID-19 and 36 deaths.But medical practitioners caution the use of herbal medicine for the treatment of COVID-19.
The Zimbabwean government said that it only recognizes scientifically proven and evidence-based remedies for COVID-19 but will not stop people from seeking assistance from traditional healers if they choose to do so.
the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends social distancing as a way to curtail the spread of COVID-19, the size of Kafera’s family and the sheer number of patients thronging his shrine every day makes social distancing impossible.
Kafera is a polygamist with eight wives, 85 children, and 42 grandchildren.Apart from his large family, Kafera also attends to more than 150 patients daily, some of whom stay at his shrine while receiving their medication.
But that setup heightens Kafera’s concerns as locally transmitted coronavirus cases continue to increase in Zimbabwe.”My family is very big, I have many grandchildren.
I also have many patients, but there is a requirement that we should maintain one-meter distance between each other,” he said.