My Mozambican friends tell some outrageous stories. When we first got here I was often shocked, flabbergasted or left scratching my head about the things that people had seen or heard and deeply held beliefs that were so far out of my world view, I couldn’t even begin to process them.
When my best friend told me that cows know when women are pregnant and they get jealous and will often charge – I was dumbfounded. I asked everyone I knew whether they had heard the same thing and the overwhelming majority believed it to be true.
When my friend in the village told me that the hospital in town was handing out new types of shiny panadol that don’t do anything for your pain but can give you ebola – I was appalled. But people have a genuine fear that the government is trying to poison / sabotage people from areas where the opposition has a stronghold.
Our guard recently told Cam that he saw, with his very own eyes, a witch flying on a sifting pan across Lake Malawi. He had come all the way from Malawi on the other side to carry out attacks in our guard’s home village. He stayed til 4am and then flew home again. What?!?!? Sounds insane right – but then read this article in Zimbabwe’s news.
I’m slowly getting used to these kinds of stories, they’re pretty much a normal part of life now. Every now and then I hear one that’s just beyond outrageous – weird and gross and dangerous if left unchallenged.
My friend told me a few weeks ago that her son in law had been involved in a car accident and had a massive gaping wound across his shoulder blade. He had been numerous times to the hospital to have the wound seen to but each time the staff would just clean it and cover it without giving him any medications at all and the wound was steadily worsening. It had started to smell and was causing him considerable pain.
My friend explained to me that they believed that the wound wasn’t improving because during the night, witches were coming to his house with their ugadi (stiff maize porridge) and eating the flesh off the sides of his wounds as their side dish. Ewwwwwwwww!!!! That’s just gross right.
Just from the description, anyone with half a brain could tell that he had a rip-roaring wound infection. I was hoping to go and check it in person out but we were heading off to Malawi early the next day. Knowing that he’d continue to have no luck at the hospital and having a rather huge supply of antibiotics on hand that needed to be used before the expiry date – I sent my friend off with strict instructions about how to take the medication and was very pleased to hear when we got back that the wound has almost completely healed!
The incredibly eclectic approach to medical help here is fascinating. Most of my Mozambican friends will quite happily use traditional medicine + witchcraft + prayer + modern medicine in one very difficult to understand mix. It really messes with my Australian, health care worker trained brain!
A good friend of ours Tim is currently working on filming and producing a documentary called “Sick In Africa.” It will follow the lives of several Muslim Yao families living in rural Mozambique as they seek assistance for sick family members. Interspersed in the real-life events of these illnesses and the path for healing that they take, other knowledgable Yawo people will explain what they believe about illnesses, taboos, reasons why they prefer one type of medical treatment over the other, etc.
I can’t wait to see it! If you want to know more you can follow the “Sick In Africa” page on Facebook or head over to Tim’s Ajambule website. If you would like to be involved in supporting Tim’s amazing work – head over to the Sick In Africa GoFundMe page.