Vanuatu government and traditional healers fight TB together
Health officials in Vanuatu hope collaborative work with traditional healers can reduce the rate of tuberculosis.
Health officials in Vanuatu say they hope to collaborate with traditional healers to reduce the rate of tuberculosis.
The Health Ministry's statistics show about 120 people are reported to be infected with TB each year and most of them prefer to be treated by traditional healers.
Beverley Tse reports:
Health officials from the National Tuberculosis Programme are currently analysing research on traditional healers to find out how they can work together to combat the disease. A medical officer from the World Health Organisation says the research has found the majority of communities in Vanuatu trust traditional healers and prefer them over western medicine. However, Dr Rufina Latu says the results reveal traditional healers have not been successful in treating TB sufferers.
DR RUFINA LATU: The studies have shown that those who have sought the services of traditional healers actually have relapses of their tuberculosis and they get worse after a while and eventually they will need westernised medicines.
The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Co-ordinator Markleen Tagaro says people living in rural areas prefer traditional clinics because they find it difficult to get to the government's health centres.
MARKLEEN TAGARO: Some health facilities are very far from communities, especially in remote areas. The second thing is cost is also an issue where they have to get transportation from where they live to the health facility. But accessing something from a traditional healer is something close to where it's affordable.
Markleen Tagaro says the Health Ministry hopes to give well known traditional healers from each province better training in how to deal with people infected with TB.
MARKLEEN TAGARO: The important thing here is if we can collaborate with them, we can train them to identify signs and symptoms of tuberculosis and then they can refer any suspects to the health clinic in their areas.
The Executive Director of the National Council of Women, Leias Cullwick, says it is concerning that traditional healers haven't been able to reduce the rate of TB and hopes the Health Ministry can teach them how to successfully treat TB patients.
LEIAS CULLWICK: I think the traditional healers need to have some sort of assistance with the medical people to ensure that the work they do is in fact helping the people. And we have to take stock of the statistics on how successful are they when they help these people with TB.
Leias Cullwick says many people are not aware that TB can be transmitted through the sharing of cups and utensils and says more education is needed to curb the spread of the disease.
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