Indigenous Practices for Sustainable Management of Epilepsy in Zimbabwe: A Case of Epilepsy Support Foundation Zimbabwe

Mutanana, Ngonidzashe (2018)


This study analysed indigenous practices in sustainable management of epilepsy in Zimbabwe. The indigenous practices were measured against the following indicators; (1) why people with epilepsy are not on anti-epilepsy medication, (2) indigenous practices that are used by people with epilepsy to manage their condition, (3) community acceptance on indigenous practices of treating epilepsy in Zimbabwe, and (4) strategies for mainstreaming indigenous treatment practices in relation to the development of sustainable epilepsy management in Zimbabwe. This study, based on the philosophical foundations of the African philosophy was qualitatively driven, that is, both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used but it was biased towards qualitative methods. The target populations were people who are living with epilepsy, their family members, their doctors, nurses, psychologists, traditional healers, herbalists, pastors, and prophets. A sample of 150 parents of children living with epilepsy, 103 adult females with epilepsy and 67 adult males living with epilepsy were identified through proportional stratified random sampling to answer research questions. The study also conveniently identified some people who are living with epilepsy and families who are taking care of people who are living with epilepsy for in-depth interviews. The following were also purposively selected for in depth interviews; doctors, nurses, a counsellor and a psychologist. The researcher finally identified traditional healers, herbalists, and Christian healers for in-depth interviews using snowball sampling. Findings from the research study revealed that people with epilepsy are not on anti-epilepsy medication because they strongly believe epilepsy is caused by witchcraft and evil spirits. They think bio-medication is not helpful in treating the disease. As such, people with epilepsy have resorted to indigenous practices of epilepsy management. There are various modes of indigenous practices which they use and these include prayers, pastors/prophets, herbalists and the clergyman. From these different forms of traditional practices, traditional herbs have proved to be the most popular among people with epilepsy, followed by prayers. People with epilepsy are of the opinion that these indigenous practices are very effective in epilepsy management. Findings revealed that medical practitioners are not cooperating with indigenous practitioners. This is in spite of the fact that the community has a positive perception towards these indigenous practices. To this end, the researcher recommends the community to be educated about bio-medication, and the effectiveness of anti-epilepsy medication in epilepsy management. Local traditions and beliefs should be taken into account in epilepsy management. Medical practitioners should incorporate indigenous practitioners rather than antagonising them. Primary and secondary health workers must go under training in all aspects of management of epilepsy. These people must be trained on the knowledge, attitudes and practices of indigenous practices in epilepsy management. Indigenous practitioners too, must be trained on bio-medication. They should work hand in hand with primary and secondary health workers. The involvement of family members, people with epilepsy and the community at large is important in order to maintain a momentum which will facilitate the sustainability of epilepsy management. Future studies should also investigate the effectiveness of traditional herbs in epilepsy management.