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Participating in the Awards Ceremony of Traditional Healers
By Paul Batiibwe, MD <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dec. 15, 2004
On the return from Gulu, I suggested to Don that we go and witness the handing out of Certification awards to traditional healers sponsored by PROMETRA (NGO for the Promotion of Traditional Medicine) Uganda the next day. By 9:30 am, Dr Kayiwa, Don and I. had gotten together. While Don and Dr. K were at the internet café, I had repairs of the front wheeler done and we sped towards the venue along the road to Masaka, albeit a little late. Masaka is a town about 120 kilometers west of Kampala. About half way there, a sign post showing PROMETRA Buyijja alerted us to make a right hand turn to cover the 4 kilometers on a murram road. The more we moved along this road, the narrower it became until we sighted a pot with holes in it, mounted on a vertical cement slab bearing the names PROMETRA in front of round brick huts, still under construction, in the background.
The route had reduced to a path at a point where a by-stander showed us an area we could park our vehicle in the bushes and followed him. We walked no less than 1 kilometer deep into a thick forest, on a soggy foot path, occasionally jumping over trails of safari ants, while listening to our guide's story. Apparently he was also a trainee who had just qualified. He told of there being an entity in charge of the forest and a water spring starting within, hence the name "Nalugoma"
All of a sudden, we were able to see the sky, and an open space with immaculately well maintained small gardens right in front of us.
"These are medicinal plant gardens, owned by the trainees," our guide told us.
Further ahead was a forest of trees, a bigger proportion of which were medicinal, and bore botanical name tags. Here is where the training takes place and the function to be held there was about to begin.
The organizers and graduates were waiting for the guest of honour, the Resident District Commissioner of that area.
An Impromptu Class
After signing in the guest book, we were welcomed by an elderly lady who offered to take us around the forest. That is when she recognized that I had been there before and she had instructed me on an earlier occasion about the medicinal uses of trees she was pointing out.
Looking at me she asked "what medicinal value does this tree have?" Honestly, she'd told me the first time I was there, but I could remember neither the tree nor its uses.
Most of these trees are no less than 3 meters high. With most of their leaves forming the canopy above, it makes identification a little tricky. Well, she went all over it again and we ended up in the gardens, where things got more interesting.
Many plants had very unique uses ranging from luck, to relationships, to de-parasiting the body, to immune boosting, poison antidotes and body cleansing. We listened to the lady as others joined us.
Overall, the reported importance of the plants herein, appealed to at least one aspect of our group's pressing life challenges and needs. How I wish it were completely true.
Ability of Humans to Create & Direct
My psychic friend Kizira says humans have a creative ability. They can bestow upon any thing a force to carry out something on their behalf. For instance, a plant can be assigned the responsibility to treat a disease or even guard a place against thieves. An entity can be requested to protect a water spring, engage another entity, or another being. It can be directed to look for plants with certain curative properties. Water can be made to store a human intent. All of the above, amongst several others, can manifest by one making simple affirmations! Kizira believes that spirits in flesh (read human beings) have more power than those without. Seth, a one time non-physical teacher, ascents to this idea. Talking of water qualities, Hulda Clark Ph.D. now describes a technique of cloning treatments into water in the latest of her books, The Cure for Advanced Cancers (but enough of such diversions.Back to the gardens).
Dr Yahaya Sekagya
As what to learn seemed endless, our lesson was abruptly brought to a halt by the arrival of a flamboyantly dressed man, the brains behind this effort, Dr Yahaya Sekagya
A dental Surgeon by basic training, Sekagya conceived the idea of this project 11 years ago. He narrated that, one time while training for CONCERN Worldwide as a consultant in traditional medicine, he found himself in this forest, in which he got lost for three days and two nights.
Throughout the three days, the doctor continued, he did not eat or feel hungry and he neither feared nor felt cold. He spent the nights under a huge tree (Ficus natalensis) where he received the message that at that particular place was to be the training and treatment centre for traditional medicine. It was then that I realized we were actually standing under that very tree.
PROMETRA Uganda is an affiliate organization of PROMETRA International with its headquarters in Dakar-Senegal and whose president is Dr Erick Vidjin Gbodossou, MD .
I am impressed by the rising number of MDs acknowledging the need to supplement their training and practice with alternative therapeutic approaches.
Our intensive medical training emphasized the use of conventional drugs as the only mode of healing, carefully brainwashing the trainees into believing that all other options, are not real; or at best unproven.
Given their organized religion-based background, many MDs are quick to tell their clientele that traditional healing is satanic, unhygienic and uses concoctions whose dosage is largely guess work. But it is this traditional healing, not conventional medicine, that has supported populations through all civilizations. The onset of conventional medicine has seen increased epidemics, diminishing life expectancy, and a diminishing of quality life years.
When practicing, many MDs get frustrated by the seemingly incurable diseases on the rise, by the lack of freedom to research into other possible treatments without support from the multinationals pharmaceutical firms. Research was carefully designed to be expensive.
I am glad that the doors to PROMETRA are open to all, including MDs. If my country had schools training naturopaths, I bet these physicians would get along very well with MDs.
If the indigenous African peoples were ever proud, they are no longer. The economic imbalance amongst the nations between the north and south divide has been styled in place by the currencies exchange rate. To me, the exchange rates reflect the quotient times the average quality of life which in turn creates a huge difference between the two countries in question. Thus, currently Uganda's quality of life is 2000 times worse than that of America.
The organized religions introduced to Africans were done rather unfaithfully. They, together with the educational system that ushered them in, poured in endless feelings of inferiority amongst the natives, thus undermining the African's spirituality which encompassed traditional healing. Up to now, white is considered superior and black is evil. What a chondray!
In the sub Saharan Africa, more than 50% of the population does not have access to modern medicines, in spite of the brainwashing that nothing else works. This couples with the ugly truth that the Africans' knowledge of their medicinal plants has been lost; being carried to the grave with each dying traditional healer, to create an enormous vacuum in health education. Is it any wonder that Africa has the worst declining health statistics in the world?
PROMETRA, developed a cultural and geographically specific training curriculum for practitioners of Traditional Medicine (the FAPEG method) with the hope that Western medicine and modern science will respect the age old knowledge and wisdom of traditional medicine and indigenous science.
They are looking at natural medicine as a means of development.
Health systems in Africa are always donor driven. The priorities the other way around are very wrong. Take malaria for example. It is still the number one killer in Africa, in spite of much media hype about AIDS. Little of practical knowledge is applied against malaria, beyond lamentations and procuring expensive modern drugs. On average, the number of times one falls sick of malaria in Africa is six times per year. A very conservative estimate of US $1 per treatment, per episode, for a population of 22 million, leaves my country loosing US $ 132 million to pharmaceutical firms annually to treat malaria alone!
There are well known medicinal herbs, shrubs, and trees that are effective against malaria and numerous other ailments that can grow almost anywhere in the tropics, even within the compound of ones home. The extraction of active ingredients often does not require more than boiling in water. Preservation largely depends on natural methods, like the the drying of herbs in the sun.
If this knowledge was well understood by the well meaning leaders of the third world, the costs of health care would be drastically reduced with lots of savings. This approach could cure most of the health problems of Africa.
The best of each style of medicine must work together in order to ensure that the health problems of Africa are addressed within every country, city and village. In the current world situation, it would be necessary to train healers and establish settings where healers can share their knowledge and reinforce their training. This is what PROMETRA is attempting to do.
There was a brief drizzle that hardly interrupted anything as we walked back to the shade and inside the tent, below the "sacred" Ficus tree, which had been erected to function as a class room.
Some of these shelters bore tags such as "class one",( for basic knowledge and identification of medicinal plants), "class two" (diseases and treatments using traditional medicines) and "class three" (for spirituality and traditional healing).
We were seated in front of a large group of trainees who were to be awarded certificates on this day. After self introductions, I was requested to introduce Don Croft to the gathering in the local vernacular.
While waiting for the guest of honour, we were entertained by their own local choir and dance group. The group sang about the importance of traditional medicine, how it has helped heal many of the numerous chronic ailments plaguing the country, the need to stop discriminating against natural medicines and instead promote them, the advantages of TM, etc.
The chief Guest of Honour was delayed in her arrival because of the other functions she had to preside over that day. However, the programme continued in her absence. When it came time to hand out the certificates, Don was called upon to act as the guest of honour for presenting awards. This was something he did admirably in spite being feeling visibly unwell. Don congratulated each candidate in the local dialect ( I, of course, was fervently hoping that he would remember what to say).
The Resident District Commissioner Arrives
A bit later, we were joined by the entire entourage of the Guest of Honour, the Resident District Commissioner who is the representative of the President of Uganda in the district. Her entourage included the district security chief, assistants, and body guards. She apologized for being held up by other functions which included the district World AIDS day of celebration. In her speech, she paid glowing tribute to the role played by PROMETRA in promoting what is indigenous, citing that without Traditional Medicines, the protracted guerrilla war fighters led by President Museveni would have faced immense health challenges, at that time.
She pledged support for the organization. She delegated the responsibility of choosing the best garden to the security officer and me. A lovely garden which was very well maintained was chosen and the 'owner' was presented with gifts which included a goat and a hand lantern. Other gifts were then given to Don and the chief Guest of Honour.
In his speech, Dr Sekagya, the President of PROMETRA Uganda, talked of the achievements of PROMETRA in areas of herbal garden development, collaboration with other agencies, and sensitization of communities. He recognized the role played by various stakeholders in supporting this organization and in particular thanked the FORD Foundation for their assistance. He cited funding gaps as a big restriction in realizing their objectives.
At one point, Don requested that a gift be given to Dr Sekagya. He received one of Carol Croft's creations, the Harmonic Protector pendant. Don said that he appreciated the Uganda government's openness to traditional and other alternate therapies, at least at the political leadership level. He described how the HP pendant works and its advantages. He wished all along that he had been able to take his gifted wife, Carol, along with him on this trip. I translated his speech into the vernacular and informed the listeners about some of the other neckies strapped round Dr Sekagya, which he had received as honours from various places in Africa.
The function was crowned with a bash of typical African steamed foods. We feasted till evening while chatting. I was mainly answering questions of the inquisitive security chief, who at the end of it all, was greatly amazed by Don's peculiarities and our unique view and approach to worldly issues.
Paul Batiibwe MD
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