Muchaneta Chimuka Senior Reporter

Some traditional and faith healers who are attending to their patients without wearing personal protective equipment (PPEs) may fuel the spread of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe at a time local transmissions have increased.

A visit to some traditional and faith healers in Chitungwiza, revealed a considerable number of people are now resorting to traditional medicines than modern medicine believing these cure and prevent Covid-19.

To make matters worse, some traditional healers are claiming that they can treat the novel corona virus yet there is no scientifically proven cure for this disease as yet.

A traditional healer from Chitungwiza (name withheld) claimed that he can cure the disease.

However, he is putting his life and those of his clients at risk as he does not use any PPEs when attending to them.

“Just bring me one patient with the virus and you will see wonders. In a dream, my ancestors told me of herbs that can cure Covid-19. I do not use gloves and masks because it’s against my tradition,” said the traditional healer.

There are lots of benches at his house from where he operates from and many people can be seen flocking in seeking treatment for various ailments.

Several flamboyant cars are also seen parked outside.

The traditional healer uses a small wooden hut to conduct treatment sessions. It is poorly ventilated and this exposes him and his patients to Covid-19 and other airborne diseases.

The traditional healer speaks at the top of his voice claiming to have all sorts of herbs that cure every ailment. This is despite the fact that none of the herbs underwent medical testing through the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe.

Madzimai Memory Tarusenga of the Johanne Masowe Apostolic Sect also in Chitungwiza said she attends to hundreds of people who come and gather at her shrine.

While attending to them, she does not wear any form of protection for it is against her church doctrines.

“I abide by my church doctrines, we are not allowed to wear gloves or other materials which are not white garments and a veil. My spirit does not allow me to use masks and gloves. I work bare-handed like this. It is the same spirit that guides me to diagnose and cure all forms of illnesses,” she revealed.

This treatment practice is being used by many cultural and faith healers who are mushrooming across the country as they try to make a living.

Some of them are affiliated to reputable associations, which is a true reflection that there is poor monitoring and evaluation of work from grassroots level.

Most of them claim that they have operating licences yet they do not abide by the ethical guidelines in terms of how they are supposed to carry out their duties in areas which they are supposed to operate in.

The Traditional Medical Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe, which is administered by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, provides licences and they have the right to confiscate them whenever there is malpractice by practitioners.

However, high medical costs at both private and public hospitals are forcing people to rely on cultural and faith-based treatments which are cheaper.

“I rely on traditional medicine because I do not have medical aid.  At times I give the traditional healer a hen or goat, but when we visit our local medical facilities they need cash or medical aid. I know Covid-19 is there, that’s why I’m wearing my mask,” said Tatenda Mukarodema (32) a client.

Founder and President of the Zimbabwe National Practioner’s Association, Sekuru Friday Chisanyu, said there is greater need for information dissemination and to educate such groups as they are crucial members of the community.

“Modern medicine comes from natural resources which we have to utilise and there are so many traditional and faith healers nationwide. If they are not educated about preventative measures and precautions that they are supposed to use when assisting patients, it would be a total disaster. Currently we are holding training workshops for our members (traditional and faith healers on the precautions that they should take when assisting their patients in order to reduce spreading of Covid-19,” he said.

He revealed that due to strong attachments to some spiritual and cultural beliefs, 80 percent of the county’s population visits traditional and faith healers before going to hospitals and clinics hence chances of spreading Covid-19 are high.

“During this pandemic, we are encouraging members to refer their patients to hospitals first so that they can be tested for Covid-19. We also make sure that it is mandatory that they use PPEs such as face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers and avoid bodily contact with patients to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

He added: “However, due to poor monitoring some of our licensed members are found ignoring such measures risking lives. We urge communities to report such cases so that drastic measures are taken.  We have Acts of law that guide us, hence it’s a crime to spread diseases. If one is found wanting the operating licence will be cancelled.”

According to Sekuru Chisanyo, most traditional and faith healers do not have medical testing equipment for diseases including Covid-19 and HIV.

“There is no cure for Covid-19, HIV therefore people should not be robbed of their hard earned cash and wealth by those claiming to have a cure. Prevention is the main moto. It is also important to follow the World Health Organisation guidelines. Those who claim to have its cure must be scientifically approved by a registered laboratory,” he said.

Recently, some members of the apostolic sect gathered in their numbers for their annual conference in Masvingo and Manicaland raising chances of spreading covid-19.