WHO: Traditional healers and Ebola (4)

20 August, 2019

Hi Neil,

Good that you noticed this. Even during the 2014-2015 West Africa outbreak, this was one of the approaches, with varied levels of success. Some found that traditional healers were willing to work with health authorities when Ebola was explained well and contextualised. In other instances, traditional healers retained the perspective that referrals to health facilities would take away business. It's an important conversation, especially in low-access, low-income contexts where traditional healers may be the only health resource people consult within their communities.

There are some innovative approaches in this area. Another contextual example was, following an incident where 14 women and girls died through contact with a single sowee (practitioner of female circumcision/female genital mutilation), the sowee community was offered a stipend (and I think some retraining for other areas of work) for the duration of the outbreak in exchange for discontinuing the dangerous practice. Often village chiefs, community health committees and other traditional leaders can be strong advocates for practice change and collaboration.



Catherine Kane

Community Health Worker Guideline Communications & Advocacy

Human Resources for Health Policies & Standards

Health Workforce Department

World Health Organization

Avenue Appia 20, CH-1211 Geneva 27