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Witness
Sangoma
In South Africa the sick are more likely to go to traditional healers than hospitals.
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2009 14:38 GMT

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Director: Martin Himmel

Michel Imhlongo is a traditional healer, known locally as a sangoma, in the small village of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Each day, ailing villagers visit him in search of physical and spiritual healing.

After driving away evil spirits and calling upon his ancestral healers, Michel is ready to diagnose his patients and offer them the treatments they need to get well. Through a mixture of earthy potions and sometimes elaborate rituals passed down through generations, Michel dispenses his cures.

There are nearly 300,000 traditional healers like Michel throughout South Africa. This compares to 23,000 medical doctors. The majority of South Africans prefer to go to these healers instead of hospitals. A session with a healer like Michel inside his small hut is much more appealing than waiting hours in a crowded hospital to see a white western doctor for only a few impersonal moments.

The medical profession frowns upon sangomas - part of the debate between conventional and alternative medicine. But the government is more cautious to judge. It has called for the legal registration of sangomas, tantamount to government acceptance of the value of alternative medicine.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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