Makuyu, “land of witches”

For: Maria Ferreira

"Down who give
damn bread to the birds!”
André Breton

“Kai utoi noowe kiambiriria na kirikiro giakwa (…)
Horera, horeria meciria.
Niguo ngoro yakwa nayo
Igie na thayo ta wa toro
Horeria meciria”

"Do not you know that you are my beginning and my end?
Relax your mind
For my heart
Can facilitate your dream.
Relax your mind "
Njeri Browse

Prometheus dared to steal fire, only intended for the gods, and caused humanity were punished for opening Pandora's Box. The latest penalties out of the box were diseases. Generally, both in mythology and in the Judeo-Christian culture has always tended to consider that the mistake carries a punishment: disease.

The consequences of considering the disease as a punishment for sins committed are always dire, but Kenya is where I have seen first hand the damage that this belief does: the 120 psychiatric patients we work with have been accused of being damned, have been abandoned, rejected by their villages, hidden in a tiny room, attacked ... There have been cases, even, in which they have tried to burn alive.

The country is full of scoundrels who charge a huge amount of money for exorcisms

Throughout these almost three years psychiatric patients visiting the area Murang’a, we have continued to face very difficult cases daily. We realize that we must wipe our "Western truth", we know that we must respect the beliefs healers, know we are not there to impose anything and that our only task is to dignify the patient. But sometimes it is terribly difficult silent about practices that do great harm. The country is full of scoundrels who charge a huge amount of money for exorcisms, eg. Carrion birds that prey on the disease and anxiety.

I was 21 years and needles in his eyes so wide with wonder carry

I will always remember the first psychiatric patient I spoke at the health center Makuyu. I was 21 years and needles in his eyes wide with wonder as take all day. The patient was sitting in the corner of the consultation, with the right half of the face and without an eye infected. I knew I had to desinfectarle and wipe, but stretched his time as possible hoping that a nurse be advanced. No such luck fell, so I held my breath and went. Her eye socket filled with pus and clotted blood. Addition, was visibly drunk. I began to talk, to try to convince him to take the medication, stop drinking that. Very naive I, silly, very silly. He laughed.

-Girl, not even putting your fingers in my wound can touch my mind, is very deep- said.

Quietly continued healing, trying to abstract the smell emanating from his body, your breath.

-I am disgusted because I have death in the face, ¿Eh? Marry me- laughed.
Mr. Ndung'u then came in and apologized for the patient.

-It does not take medication, so say those things.- And then put in hand a tablet (the patient in his mouth and spat as he turned Ndung'u).

-Allow me wrong yakuambae- I said goodbye- I pray that evil will not touch you. I knew that all he had heard from his mouth was, likely, as honest and sane he had heard in a while. As I said Aristotle: "Why is it that men so often suffer exceptional melancholy?”. I was glad also to reject the medication, without knowing why, since by that time I had never raised about mental illness more than the terror that gives the solitude of the mind. Today I know, however, which is generally dismissed as pathological everything that does not agree with the social and cultural norms, and Kenya, where mental health is taboo, tend to medicate at the first sign of opposition to the. The man was dying just lucidly, not have any type of psychopathology. But laugh at the death of oneself is ugly, terrifies the living.

“Girl, not even putting your fingers in my wound can touch my mind, is very deep”, said

I spent the rest of the morning in silence. We do not know much about Makuyu, of that "land of witches". Later I resigned to work without success. Sometimes I laugh myself stupid of me saying how vital approach. I try to sell my project, attempt to raise awareness: "Listen: there, mental illness in Africa there ". But the problem is that there is worth in the case of marketing madness. The mentally ill do not sell. I can not compete against all those NGOs working for starving children. And I know.

There are two things boundless in Makuyu health center: death and madness. Both are treated from the horror, incomprehension and denial. The first meaning is found through different religions, and madness is explained in that society through curses, evil eyes, divine punishment ... etc.

The mentally ill do not sell. I can not compete against all those NGOs working for starving children. And I know

Two days after that, Patient found dead on a road. Likely, intoxicated by an exorcism, said. had gone to a witch doctor had given him some "dawa and Kuhara", one alcohol-based purgative. Locals who were present at the "exorcism" had the next day then I heard something more than once, and that, even, I have come to read in the Daily Nation. They told how they had started dating ticks patient's eye socket, with no sign in the flesh (the last time I heard something like, ticks out of the belly of a man with stomach cancer.) Apparently, according to witnesses, ceased when ticks out of your head, the man got up and left in perfect condition. Miracle, said. And the house was filled Warlock psychiatric patients during the entire week, who came seeking peace in exchange for a very generous sum of money. 3.000 shillings for an exorcism. About 30 EUR. For reference I will say that the average salary of a Kenyan Muranga area does not reach the 25-30 euros per month.

Of course, we try to denounce it and warn our patients that they should not pay those sums of money, but it brought us nothing but the most varied threats and original (one of the most witty was to cut off the head and feed it to animals National Park Nairobi).

Two days later, Patient found dead on a road. Likely, intoxicated by an exorcism

No wonder, since we were questioning the healing abilities of that individual and jeopardizing your business. At the end of the day, turn the patient-doctor relationship in a power relationship is frowned. Call things by their name in a world where deception succeeds complacency can be scary.

Most patients suffering from hereditary diseases have in some cases and caused by alcohol and other drugs. But living in the commonplace of "magic", and under such conditions can only be silent and learn.

If you want to know more about Africa Karibuni projects:

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Comments (5)

  • Dr Fayez Maged


    Perfect Maria!! Perfect!


  • MDV


    On one hand your youth, moreover the maturity with which accounts experience that many with many more years than you would have overflowed. And certainly the ease with which transmit, perfect use of words.
    Keep counting, us not.


  • Harry


    Wonderful article and wonderful work!


  • publikaccion


    Since the admiration of your work, tell, that most always struggle in changing consciousness… history is full of them… Galileo is the best known example… ;the)


  • Ned


    That’s amazing. I didn’t know that witchcraft was still practiced anywhere.


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