Recently Kuhenza hosted a workshop for 20 Traditional Birth Attendants, Traditional Healers and Soothsayers.
The aim was to hear the views of the elders in the community, especially those who have great influence on people’s perception of anything of importance and ultimately try to change some of the traditional beliefs about children born with disabilities. By having an open dialogue with these traditional healers, birth attendants and soothsayers we hope that they in future will refer any children born with a disability to a hospital or Kuhenza so they can get the treatment they need.
The workshop participants explained the procedure they use when coming across a child with disabilities.
- The Soothsayer consults the spirits to find out the cause of the disability, what kind of treatment is needed and where to get the treatment.
- He/she convey the spirit’s message to the parents and usually refer them to a Traditional Healer.
- The Traditional Healer will then talk to the parent’s and try to give them hope that the disability can be cured. The treatment will depend on what the spirits have said is the cause of the problem.
We were told that the most common causes of disability were thought to be evil spirits, witchcraft, a curse, incest or pregnant women eating certain foods forbidden for them, even laughing at a person with a disability could cause a child to be born disabled.
Because it is believed that a disabled child can cause crops to fail, the rain to disappear an ultimately the community to starve it happens that such a child is killed. Another reason could be that a disabled child is seen as a bad omen or that it be a burden and a shame for the family. The killing would often happen by drowning the child under a sacred tree in order to appease the spirits or gods residing in the tree.
After this discussion mr. XXXX gave a talk about the scientific causes of different disabilities and how to care for children with these disabilities and the workshop ended with group discussions where they came up with an action plan which could enable the participants to become community advocates for children with disabilities.
These are the point of action the workshop participants agreed upon
- Encourage pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to sleep under nets
- Advice pregnant mothers to give birth in health institutions
- Giving right information about causes of disabilities to parents impacted by disability
- Referring children with disabilities to health institutions and other organization for early identification and interventions.
- Making the environment and equipment being used in the delivery process clean to avoid infection of the new born.
- Reporting cases of child abuse to the government and NGOs working for persons with disabilities.
Kuhenza met these traditional healers and birth attendants with respect and an open dialogue and was rewarded with xx advocates for disabled children in the area called Kwa Dadu.