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Witch Doctors in Zimbabwe

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Witch Doctors

Seventeen year old, Samukeliso Sithole is one of Zimbabwe's rising athletic stars. During last years Southern regional Championships in Botswana, she won several tittles for her home country. However, this year she finds herself in court trying to keep her medals. Why? Because Samukeliso Sithole may be a man. Sithole is not the first athlete to have a question mark next to gender. Stella Walsh, a 100 meter champ, was exposed to be a man after death, and Richard Raskins, a pro tennis player, returned to play as Renee Richards, and is now a consultant to Martina Navratilova (Scottish Herald). However what makes Sithole's case different is why her gender is confusing. She claims to be a hermaphrodite, who had a witch doctor make her male organs disappear. When Sithole failed to pay the witch doctors fee, the doctor made it re-grow (Gillon) Witch doctors, or tribal healers are very common in Zimbabwe and the rest of southern Africa. Some believe that they help the society by giving a feeling of much needed hope. Others believe the awful stories about there false claims of health. Whichever side is right one thing is for sure. Tribal healing has evolved as an only option for the poor during Zimbabwe's long and troubled past

Up until a little while ago Zimbabwe hospitals were considered the best. However in recent years they have deteriorated rapidly. They have been plagued with drug shortness, and doctors strikes. At some points the drug supply is so low that the doctors only accept life threatening cases. "Most of the drugs have to be imported...Even those that can be found locally are so expensive that we cannot afford to buy stocks that can fill up the pharmacies of the major hospitals," a medical official from the city of Harare said during a major drug shortage in 2003 (Agence France-Presse). Even the equipment is not up to par. Doctors complain of watching patients bleed to death just out of lack of supply. That same year, a huge strike took over Harare, and even more patience were being turned away. Strikes in hospitals are usually caused by the poor working conditions and low salaries. Most junior doctors in Zimbabwe are paid about 15,000 Zimbabwean dollars, or 400 American dollars (Anold-Msipa). Monica Ngwere, an asthmatic citizen who was hurt by the strike said: "They said I should come back after the strike. But nobody told me when that would be," during an interview while being sent away (BBC News) Those who cannot get professional medical attention do have another option. They can see a witch doctor. Witch doctors usually have no form of training and prescribe non-traditional medication and activities to improve health. In Africa, where a significant portion of the population is extremely poor, witch doctors are the only option. Most patients visit witch doctors out of sheer desperation (WWRN).

The lack of doctors in Zimbabwe is also a huge problem. According to the UN development programme's human development report 2004 the United States has approximately 279 doctors per 100,000 people. The Philippines has about 115 and China has about 164. Both of those countries are considered poor by national standards. Some of Zimbabwe's neighbors, like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia have an average of 27 doctors per 100,000. Zimbabwe has about 6 doctors per 100,000 citizens. The country is even the worst in the area. Mozambique has about 2 doctors per 100,000 (Human Development Report 2003). Another horrifying fact revolves around the health expenditure per capita. This number is based on how much can actually be purchased with the money in the certain country and measured in. The USA has a PPP of about 4,887. The Philippines has a PPP of about 169 and China has one of about 224. Botswana and Namibia are both in the 300's. Zimbabwe a PPP of about 142. Mozambique has a PPP of about 47 (Human Development Report 2003).

Zimbabwe's war driven history and deprived citizens have led to the myriad of witch doctors in the country. It started in the early days, when Zimbabwe was first colonized. The original non-Africans to enter Zimbabwe were Muslim traders but soon British colonizers followed (Sheehan, 26) Zimbabwe was originally called Rhodesia after Englishman Cecil Rhodes. Cecil Rhodes was convinced that he was bringing the greatest civilization on earth to the local people. His goal was to expand the British Empire to its ultimate limit (Sheehan 26) As the country started to evolve, European medicine also migrated. However, it was only open to the white population. The rest of the country continued to use traditional medication that was local and easier to get. Until the 1920's, Rhode's British South Africa Company ran Rhodesia (Sheehan 28) In 1923, Rhodesia became South Rhodesia (northern Rhodesia is now Zambia) and citizens were granted the right to vote. However,

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