"Free treatment, free death" The practices of traditional healers and their influence on the health-seeking behaviour in Bamaa, Sierra Leone

This report provides an analysis of the practices of traditional healers and their influence on health-seeking behaviour related to maternal and child health, for the population in Gorama Mende and Wandor (GMW) chiefdoms, Kenema district, Sierra Leone.

The overview of findings addresses the following questions:

  • What alternative healthcare providers are available and how do they practice?
  • When, how and for what ill-health conditions are these different healthcare providers covering?
  • How do people perceive the different healthcare options and which factors influence where to seek care?

Contrary to the assumption that traditional healers greatly influence health-seeking behaviour, our data suggest that people in GMW are influenced primarily by proximity to services, affordability, and the reception they receive from staff at the health facility.

Whereas healthcare providers felt that people saw traditional healers first, the population emphasised that their preferred choice would always be the peripheral health units (PHU) providing there were no barriers to services. These barriers were seen as living in hard-to-reach areas, transportation, unexpected payment of services and fear of health staff because of distrust, poor communication and unmet needs.

Document Author(s)
Doris Burtscher
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