Traditional Healers Trained to Refer Eye-Care Cases

IMAGE: Ilembe District Eye coordinator Kenneth Mthunzi demonstrates the function of the eye using a model during the Orbis Africa course in Pietermaritzburg last week.

via IOL / The Mercury

By Kamcilla Pillay
Photo: Rogan Ward

THE formal medical sector’s collaboration with traditional healers could significantly reduce unnecessary eyesight loss within rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal.

This was the reason, said eye care initiative NGO Orbis Africa, the organisation had reached out to traditional healers to equip them with the skills necessary to identify eye problems to increase the early uptake of eye health services for rural inhabitants of KZN.

They developed the initiative to train 15 traditional healers in the Msunduzi municipality last year to promote the referral of eye conditions to primary health care clinics.

This training comprised five modular sessions focusing on identifying and referring various eye conditions in both adults and children. The pilot was successfully implemented and more than 40 patients have been referred to date.

Last week, the last training and certificate handover took place. The organisation’s chief executive, Lene Overland, said the international organisation worked with local partners to develop their capacity for accessible, high quality sustainable eye health services for all, regardless of their ability to pay.


“We do this by developing infrastructure, providing training to local doctors, nurses and community members, and conducting outreach services. Together with the provincial Department of Health, our work has bridged the gap between the formal and informal health sectors through successfully collaborating with traditional healers in the province.”

Overland said collaborating with traditional healers was important to strengthen the eye health referral system. “Together we can increase the likelihood of patients with eye conditions timeously accessing appropriate screening, treatment and referral.”

Traditional healer of 36 years Sebenzile Ndlovu said the training had been invaluable in helping her do her job. “Most black people seek out the advice of a traditional healer before they go to a clinic. Sometimes, they rely only on us and don’t see doctors. If we have the knowledge, and the tools, we can tell them if they need treatment from specialists.”

She said the skills they had learnt empowered the whole community. “We may be able to help prevent people from going blind. That, to me, is the best part of receiving this training. It has opened our eyes.”



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