Published On: Wed, Mar 20th, 2013

Uganda: Fake traditional healers threatening African medicine

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Tucked away about 20 metres from the Kampala-Masaka highway at Busega is Kityo Herbal Research Project, a haven for those who want to rid themselves of dental cavities and halitosis (bad breath).

Tracing Kityo’s clinic was no easy job, as he was new in the area and unfamiliar to many. In fact, one motorcyclist said he had heard that a witch-doctor had invaded the area.

When I finally traced the place, the diminutive Dr Kityo, as he prefers to be called, donning black socks, khaki trousers and pale white shirt loosely hanging over the trousers, welcomed me. However, I was supposed to remove my shoes. I felt a bit of indignation, as I looked at the floor dotted with ash, broom sticks and black seeds.

My stomach felt strange and my palms were clammy. Having the motorcyclist’s view stamped on my mind, I was terrified. Of course, it’s not really a fear of being in a shrine; it’s the view of what happens there – facelessvoices talking to me. My sense of security was screamingly absent.

Smoke and heat swirled around the room, as I made my way in. A charcoal stove kept aglow all the time for easier melting of a few grammes of ghee, one of the ingredients Kityo employs. Inside were two youthful clients that had issues with their teeth. I watched their treatment.

Kityo grabbed a small black pot and cleaned it with a few broom sticks and water to remove any contamination from the last user. He then dropped herbs into the pot before adding a hot piece of charcoal and the ghee. He quickly crowned the pot brim with a circular woven lid with a little opening, through which clients inhaled the odour.

The odour was choking. Throughout the procedure, coughing, spitting and squinting of teary eyes were highlights. The inhaling took 15-20 minutes until the fire died out. He uncovered the pot and, using a pair of hooked metal, removed a tiny brown or pale white substance that had collected at the bottom.

“This is the dirt from your teeth,” he told a client, urging her to go home and rest and call him later, to confirm whether her teeth had healed. The client, with a happy face but bloodshot eyes from the piercing smoke, parted with Shs 50,000 and started chewing on a green apple she had carried along.

Kityo said he has been at this job for 10 years and his medication caters for all age group.

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Uganda: Fake traditional healers threatening African medicine