‘Healers’ and magic cures

When I was growing up, we were told the Kamba had the best ‘witchcraft’. At the Coast, you had to be careful around cats, they might be humans transformed into cats at night so they can enter people’s houses easily, bewitching them, and making them sick with diseases that doctors cannot treat. But the Kenyan stuff could not be compared to that from Tanzania – advanced to the point of slaughtering albino people to use their body parts to make their potions more powerful. West Africa is even more feared. I took this picture in Ghana many years ago – no comparison to the Kitengela one I showed you on Tuesday…….

Ghana poster- to use

Those who practice witchcraft also double as ‘healers’ and promise freedom from diseases that medical doctors are not able to cure. You will not see them advertising cures for malaria but chronic illnesses like diabetes, HIV, mental illness and cancer. People rarely go to these ‘healers’ at the first sign of illness but after trying help from the medical field either finding no help or finding that the treatment will have to continue their whole lifetime – costing the family huge sums of money.

People will argue that people who visit witchdoctors/healers are coming face to face with demons and visiting a witchdoctor is evil. Election season is here and politicians will be visiting witchdoctors to help them win – so much so that in Embu – if this story is to be believed – they are scrapping tax for these ‘healers’ ……

Embu county seeks to waive tax for witch doctors, sorcerers

But there is a big difference between those who visit witchdoctors seeking election victory, increase in wealth, to get a love potion, stop another person from succeeding, protecting their property etc AND those who visit these people desperate for a cure of a chronic illness.

I will give you an example from Kilifi. Before the KEMRI pediatric unit at the then Kilifi District Hospital was widely known, parents would take their children to witchdoctors if they started fitting. Most fitting was a result of high fevers from severe malaria, some of these children went into a coma due to cerebral malaria. People believed there was a ‘mnyama wa ndzulu’ that caused these fits. Many things were done to these children by the witchdoctors. Then KEMRI – Wellcome Trust Research Program started intensive investigations on the treatment of fits and cerebral malaria. Fitting children were recovering – soon the first point of contact when a child was fitting became the hospital not the witchdoctor.

People with diseases like hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, cancer who require a lifetime of treatment are seduced by the false hopes offered by these ‘healers’. In Kenya, these ‘traditional healers’ practice in very humble buildings. They leave their big houses and cars behind, don their weird outfits and sit on low stools in dark huts in the outskirts of town.

Just in case you are wondering – yes – I have toured the abode of one such person – but trust me, it was purely for a story I thought I would write. I was told this guy was rich but he practiced in this dingy little hut in Mombasa. It was hard to see him in the dim light but he appeared rather tiny and did not speak with as much authority as I expected when he was answering the questions from the researchers I was with (I have to stress the later bit!).

But not all quack ‘healers’ live in dull lit rooms – some quacks are high flying.

One such is a ‘Dr’ Jim Humble who claims that a Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS) cures absolutely EVERYTHING – from malaria to flu and late stage cancer.

He has a swanky website…


But MMS is bleach – nothing more, nothing less.

Despite the many warnings issued about ‘Dr’ Humble, he is making great inroads in Africa.



He is a very clever man. Feeding off those rumours about how the West wants to finish Africans – the very rumours that have caused many in the past to stop vaccinating their children – I have previously written about this….

On vaccines and fertility

He is using those same lines to claim that pharmaceutical companies know about MMS but want to keep it away, especially from Africans, so that they can mint their millions, from their manufactured drugs.

‘Dr’ Humble is not allowed to practice in any western country and so he preys on countries with less regulations – this is the reason his large clinics are in Mexico and Bulgaria – where patients from all over the world come to see him.

Africa is ‘Dr’ Humble’s new hunting ground and he is selling his bleach by the gallon.

This distrust of the pharmaceutical industry is giving ground to many hoaxes. The internet is full of ‘alternative’ treatments. Don’t get me wrong. Not all alternative treatments are bad – there are diets helpful in the treatment of various ailments or at least alleviating the suffering they cause. There are herbs that are extremely useful and there are people who benefit greatly from getting needles stuck in various bits of them. However, we need to be more careful in our judgement of these alternatives. If someone claims he can cure absolutely everything, then that is a person to avoid at all costs.

The internet is full of ‘healers’ and magic cures – swanky websites that seduce – they are no better than the witchdoctor we claim to despise.


  • Indeed exploitation of the public has evolved with the changing times and the likes of Dr Humble in addition to many others like him, will out to garner as much as possible!

    My borne of contention is the label given to persons (traditional healers) in Africa who opt to use indigenous plant extracts in their methodology of managing ailments. Whereas here in developed societies, such persons are given professional recognition i.e, often referred to as homeopaths or naturopaths, spiritualists, empaths etc…, in African countries, the labels apportioned always have negative connotation associated to voodoo or witchcraft. The question ought to be: Why is there no drive for concerted funded African research on alternative therapy which these traditional healers offer?

    The second issue that I’ve always pointed out with respects to vaccination programs in Africa concerns with the poor and often lack of national accessible or levelled healthcare systems along with adequate nutrition. Not having a system of medical history on persons in relation to allergies or drug-reactions, introducing live vaccines in to their bodies in the form of vaccination without adequate monitoring of pre and post care is tantamount to corporate negligence. Where do these persons return to when things have gone wrong where unstable politically affiliated regimes aren’t held to account?

  • Tabs

    Thanks Grace – with ‘healers’ i agree that there are those who I would prefer to call herbalists who use the roots, barks etc of plants to make medicine. Its a pity that unlike the Chinese who took on their traditional herbs and have a parallel system of health involving those original remedies alone, we in Africa have not followed suit. However, it is not all doom and gloom. In Kenya, the KEMRI centre has a department commited to research on traditional medicines – I believe that if our nations in Africa commit to looking for cures from our herbs, we shall find them – however, there must be evidence through research that these cures work …http://www.kemri.org/index.php/centres-a-departments/ctmdr

    With regards to vaccinations – there is really nowhere in the world where each child is tested for allergic reactions to vaccine components before being given vaccinations. It is just not possible. However, plenty of post-market research on the vaccines is available to show that allergic responses are extremely rare. Live vaccines have a higher potential for ill effects and for that reason are not often used. Oral polio vaccine for example is currently being replaced by the injectable inactivated one.

    Thanks for your comments Grace.