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Understanding the Role of Traditional Health in Eye Health Care in Gurage Zone, Southern Ethiopia

Understanding the Role of Traditional Health in Eye Health Care in Gurage Zone, Southern Ethiopia

Written by: Munira Sitotaw
Published in: Outstanding Papers - Year: 2018
Book Line: Vol. 24 No. 10 ISSN 1702-3548


Traditional medicine plays an important role in the eye care delivery system in Ethiopia. The focus on traditional medicine (TM) practice allows for a much richer understanding of why certain groups within a population are more likely to suffer specific type of illnesses than others. It also helps us understand social conditions and its association with higher prevalence of health inequity among communities. These social conditions involve access people have to resources to avoid risk or ill health such as money, power, social support, social network and prestige. While many assert that some people have greater resources than others, existence of poor social conditions add for a higher inclination for the utilization of traditional medicine. In addition, although little have been acknowledged about forms of marginalization and discrimination, these can play a huge role in individual’s health treatment choices. Despite the practice of traditional medicine wide-spread occurrence, understanding the role and knowledge of traditional healing practices and practitioners is limited and has frequently been overlooked.
The goal of this research paper was (1) to understand the role of traditional medicine in the eye health care; (2) to understand the level of coordination between traditional medicine practitioners and modern healthcare providers in Gurage zone, Southern Ethiopia. To complete the analysis, a three-month descriptive ethnographic study was carried out in Gurage zone in Southern Nations and Nationalities People of Ethiopia (SNNP) between December and February, 2017/18. In-depth interviews with traditional healers and modern healthcare practitioners were performed alongside lengthy observations at their practicing sites in the region. The qualitative data was analyzed using a descriptive thematic analysis.
Findings demonstrated that, the utilization of traditional eye medicine (TEM) was more frequent among traditional healers themselves, rural residents and people with little/no access to modern eye health care. The practices of traditional healers covered a wide range of illnesses including various ocular disorders mostly using herbal medicines and Holy Water. Poorer social conditions such as cost of treatment, lack of adequate health information, long distance to healthcare centers were also a factor for an increased use of TM among the Gurage community. The health administration office in Gurage zone had a very limited knowledge and interaction with traditional healers. Although traditional medicine plays a pivotal role in the eye care delivery in the region, health practitioner’s perspective towards traditional healers was found to be slightly negative. Some health practitioners discounted the need for collaboration with THs and pointed out that if they increase the reachability and accessibility of healthcare centers to rural areas of the region, it is possible to reduce the negative impacts of TM use. Traditional medicine was also found to be overlooked by researchers and political figures. It is, therefore, time that TEM be well researched and areas of potential collaboration be identified to enhance the quality and coverage of eye care in Gurage zone.