Early intervention in childhood cancer saves lives. This year, the Childhood Cancer Foundation (Choc) East London, in collaboration with the Department of Health, has been training traditional healers across the metro to strengthen local capacity to save affected children.
Choc regional programme assistant, Portia Jodwana, said Traditional Health Practitioners (THPs), in the metre, who were respected leaders, were consulted by 70% of the community.
The training they have received equips them to become part of a referral network between hospitals and clinics which are able to attend to the children referred to them by a THP.
The training covers early warning signs of childhood cancer, different types of cancer, different treatment options, debunking myths and stigmas, and other aspects.
Jodwana, who has trained 100 THPs between 2020 and 2022, is working closely with the department to train more.
“By training the THPs we are debunking more myths and stigmas in our communities when it comes to childhood cancers.
“We hear good stories from our families where THPs ask patients medical questions before they treat patients and further where they help families get to local government clinics.
“With each training we hold, more training requests arise and people sincerely want to know how to identify these early warning signs.”
Bhisho health department official, Zoleka Mbange, said the training had been effective in that it had capacitated traditional healers with knowledge and skills, especially as many THPs claim to be able to cure cancer.
“Traditional medicine is as old as our forefathers, before the emerging of Western medicine, and people were treated and cured for ailments without doubt.
“Therefore, as the department, we cannot ignore them as if they do not exist. Contrary to that, capacitation is key for them.”
Local anthropologist at the East London Museum, Nandipha Mlonyeni, said the training was vital.
“People’s culture in general evolves because of different reasons,” Mlonyeni said.
“Education is constantly needed not only in health care, also in different aspects of life.
“Traditional healing cannot remain the same while everything else changes, including the climate.
“This education will emphasise the need for traditional healing to be relevant to current society and its changes.
“Both organisations, CHOC and the Department of Health, need to do field work in communities and conduct research on traditional healers operating in those communities so that they do not only deal with the formal registered healers but also educate the informal ones that are only known in their neighbourhood.
“A lot of people in communities believe that there are illnesses that are only found in elderly people and refuse to accept that children can also be affected and that can delay the child from getting proper treatment,” Mlonyeni said.