Two sides of African healthcare: the clinic and the witch doctor

We cleaned up the lapa before breakfast. This meant mopping the floors, cleaning the table and picking flowers to go on the table. The table was usually covered in dead moths from having the lights on the previous night. Then we put the breakfast out and waited for the others to return from their morning tasks. We helped prepare food for a late lunch and then half of us set off for the witch doctor/traditional healers.

At the witch doctors we sat in a living room and watched a DVD of a witch doctor initiation ceremony (or at least that’s what it looked like). Part of the ceremony involved them sitting on the ground hunched over, having their tongue cut and the blood from it put in a bowl. Then a chicken’s head was cut off and the blood of that added to the bowl, and then they proceeded to drink it. Some of the blood was rubbed on their backs along with what looked like ash. A few of us decided that we didn’t want to go see the witch doctor as it cost 100 rand (£10). The others were all told pretty much the same thing anyway: they would all end up living in Johannesburg and have many children.

There was a guy called Abrahim there who had been tied up by his family around the legs as apparently he had gone slightly mad. He had welts on his ankles as a result of his bindings, and the witch doctor was treating him. He asked us what our names were and how we were. At one point he said we must all have the same mum, and tried to buy me and two of the other girls. I felt both sorry for him and scared by him.

Some of the witch doctors there were trainees. They had pinky/red hair and beads to protect them against relatives who may have bad will against them. If a person is chosen to be a witch doctor, they must go and train to be one. Otherwise, as the story goes, they may get ill and die as a punishment.

What a witch doctor’s uniform can look like. There are many variations.

After the witch doctors we went to rescue the other group as they had got stuck in some mud, but went to the wrong place. Then we headed to a clinic where we were showed around. Here it really started to hit home the problem that Africa faces with health care. 10 nurses worked in the clinic and they saw roughly 1000 people a day. They were government funded and patients didn’t pay unless they went to hospital, and only then if they were over 5. However, the toilets didn’t work simply because they needed a small bit of rubber and they were waiting on the government to buy them. The air conditioning also didn’t work in the medicine room! Seeing the ages that girls were giving birth was also a shock.

The Superspar shop in Malelane where we did most of our shopping. The internet café is just on the right of its entrance.

It was now way past lunch time so we headed into Malelane to buy some food. We managed to pop into the internet café and email various people as well as go on Facebook. On the way back to the reserve we picked up Lucia, John the ranger’s cousin, from the side of the road. She works on the reserve doing the cleaning and washing, and had been to Mozambique to give food to their family. Once back we ate lunch at the odd time of 5, then our morning chore group set about preparing beef stir fry for dinner.  The kitchen got so hot whilst dinner was cooking!


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