Leaders in Kabarole district are concerned that families are shunning malaria treatment due to superstitions.
Speaking at a meeting attended by Ministry of Health officials in Kampala on Thursday, Rev. Ezra Busobozi, the Executive Director Kitojo Integrated Development Action (KIDA), an NGO that runs a hospital in Ruteete sub county, Kabarole district said the community is confusing symptoms of malaria among babies with other complications known as ‘Ebiino’ and ‘Ebyomunda’ that are widely believed to be treated exclusively by herbalists.
Busobozi says that as a result, children are brought to hospital very late when malaria has progressed into severe disease, making it difficult for health workers to save them. He said at the hospital now, the biggest number of deaths recorded in children are due to malaria.
He says worse, there’s a deeply entrenched belief that once they introduce conventional medicine to children believed to be suffering from these claimed spiritual illnesses, they will die, so as a result, they seek the services of witch doctors.
Tooro Kingdom Minister of Health Dr. Tito Beyeza, said they are aware of these dangerous beliefs and called for increased awareness. He said it is not just a problem in Rweihamba and the communities around Kitojo hospital but a general problem in Tooro region.
He explains that while they are believed to be a traditional illness, there is a scientific explanation as to why babies develop such symptoms as fever and diarrhea among others at that age.
Explaining that what is extracted by herbalists in usually unsafe environments is gingival swellings that occur during the eruption of the primary canine teeth in children, the doctor cautioned parents against being lured into seeking the services of unscrupulous herbalists and urged the Ministry of Health to come up with awareness campaigns against harmful beliefs that affect health.
Dr. Jimmy Opigo who heads the Malaria Control Division in the Ministry of Health, says even with the rise in malaria cases in different places around the country, people are still reluctant to use their mosquito nets appropriately.
He says every three years, the government avails Ugandans with up to thirty million bed nets but people don’t use them as recommended.
In some areas, he says for instance in Namutumba, ten people are being lost every week due to malaria.
Overall, an estimated 5000 people die annually in Uganda and twelve million others suffer from the disease each year.