Collaboration between traditional healers and medical providers at a nearby health center saves lives in Namacurra

  • Ina washing the dishes at her mother’s house. Photographer: Cleofas Viagem
  • Traditional healer Florinda Jorge catches up with Ina, her patient and neighbor. Photographer: Cleofas Viagem
  • Juliana Andrade Talhada is the head of Namacurra District Epidemiologic Surveillance. Photographer: Cleofas Viagem
FGH Communications Team (in country)
January 5, 2018

Eighteen-year-old Ina Mora was in the district of Gilé visiting her husband’s family when she began feeling ill in May 2017.

“Sometimes I had headaches, stomach aches and diarrhea. Both my legs got swollen and I got sick,” recalls Ina.

Ina urgently returned to her home in the Namacurra District, Zambézia Province, where she lives with her mother, to seek treatment and support from her family. Her mother took her to a traditional healer, a trusted neighbor who lives in the same neighborhood near the railway station in the district capital. She met with fifty-year-old Florinda Jorge, who has been practicing traditional medicine since 1995.

“I saw that this young woman was not well,” said Florinda. “I borrowed a bicycle and carried her to the hospital. There, I found clinicians and told them, ‘I’m bringing a patient.’ I was well received. They gave her the [HIV] test, and it came out positive. From then onwards she has been taking medication, and she is fine.”

Today Ina is visibly healthy and has future aspirations of becoming a teacher. Ina’s recovery was made possible thanks to the collaboration between Namacurra District Health authorities and Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Friends in Global Health (FGH), who have been working with traditional healers since 2008. Florinda is one of many traditional healers currently working in collaboration with FGH. She receives on-going training about referring patients showing signs of HIV or tuberculosis to health facilities. FGH provides her with the printed forms traditional healers use to keep track of the patients they refer. It was through her FGH training that Florinda knew Ina’s condition was serious enough to take her to the health facility.

“Here, people prefer going to traditional healers. A large number of patients come from them. The traditional healers are already sensitized. When a traditional healer tries to heal a certain disease and can’t, they will send patients to the health facility,” said Juliana Andrade Talhada, head of Namacurra District epidemiological surveillance activities.

FGH’s support to Namacurra’s health services consists of trainings with peer educators and community leaders on conducting interactive educational talks, called palestras, on a variety of topics including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, the referral of pregnant women for antenatal care, and community mobilization. FGH also provides referral and counter-referral forms, on-the-job technical support, and log-books for activities carried out by the traditional healers in the community as well as other resources.

Florinda and Ina are neighbors, and they have a strong friendship beyond that of patient and healer. Florinda continues to check in on Ina’s health, and she confirms Ina regularly takes her medication and goes to her routine appointments at the health facility.

During the last quarter of 2018, traditional healers referred 1,531 people to health facilities in Namacurra District and a total of 6,483 people in all FGH supported districts in Zambézia. The collaboration between traditional healers and health facilities, facilitated by FGH, is positively impacting people’s lives. FGH looks forward to sharing lessons learned in Namacurra to other supported districts in Zambézia, as well as with other clinical implementing partners providing support in other Provinces throughout Mozambique.