The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 5)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

I personally learned the following from our four days in the Zambezi Region:

  1. Dementia in Namibia (probably Africa) is caused mainly by HIV AIDS.
  2. The perception of the world that dementia is only found among the elderly, is proven wrong in Namibia.
  3. Everything in life, from draughts, the loss of cattle through wildlife and even the reason why some people succeed in life and others don’t, are blamed on bewitching.
  4. There are two kinds of witchdoctors. A) The traditional healer that heals through natural medicine. B) One that bewitches other people and controls the environment/nature.
  5. Witches are dangerous. Four witchdoctors are needed to confirm that someone is a witch.
  6. Every family has a witch(es) as all families have diseases, death and tragedies. And as you can only bewitch a family as a witch, you are a witch. This makes it possible to identify a witch in two ways: a) Someone in the family that has dementia or b) Someone in the family that is more successful than the rest.
  7. Almost everyone that we spoke to, belonged to some church or other but they all still believed in bewitching.
  8. The idea of bewitching inside and outside the church are basically the same, it is only the terminology that differs.
  9. My idea that ‘the success of bewitching lies in the brain of the one that believes in it’ is becoming truer to me.

I do hope to gather more information on all of the above in the Kavango Region as well, as in Namibia, the Kavango and Ovahimba Regions are considered the most powerful bewitching areas.



The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 4)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

Fortunately we did not leave the Zambezi Region without seeing the elderly. On the day we sat in on a court meeting, we learned from the InDuna, that the next day was pensioner’s day and that pensioners would come from all over to collect their monthly state pensions of N$600. At 8am the next morning, we were there, and from all over the elderly came walking, some from miles away, to come and collect their money. However, this didn’t work out as the money didn’t arrive and they had to return the next day. This made me extremely angry as this showed no respect for our elderly. What’s worse, most of these old people had to go back to their villages and hand over their money to their children. It isn’t lift that is unfair, it is people.

Even though the whole episode made me very angry, it did give us the opportunity to meet the elderly of the Zambezi Region. One of the first women we spoke to did not quite look sixty to me and when I started questioning us, she told us her mom was 97 and could not come herself. I questioned her about her mother but she was very shy and didn’t want to talk. I do have a feeling that this might be another Ndjinaa case, but time will teach us as I now know when and where to find the elderly.

A girl of about twelve arrived with her grandmother who told me that her grandmother talked incoherently, could not remember things and could not look after herself. The girl said her grandmother was bewitched. I spoke to another man, in his fifties, who sat next to his father. He confirmed that his father frustrated him as he spoke mostly nonsense and could not remember anything.

Unfortunately we did not have a lot of time as we had to return to Rundu, but the Ndjinaa ‘sticker’ served its purpose and I hope that our information will be discussed over many camp fires during the nights to come. We spoke to a lot of people who believed that the witchdoctors are there to make money from them. One even referred to the witchdoctors as conmen.


To be Continued…

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 3)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

In the four days that we were there, we visited three villages, two churches, two schools and a traditional court where the InDuna listened to our story and our mission in the Zambezi Region. We spoke to about 150 people. The ‘sticker’ we have of photos of Ndjinaa was a huge help and both parents and children often gathered around my pick-up to talk to us and pepper us with questions. Most Caprivians (collective name of people living in the Zambezi Region) can speak English. With the help of the ‘sticker’ and applications on my phone, we could explain to them the effect of ‘bewitching’ on the human brain.

At one school we found 28 Grade 10 students preparing for their year-end examinations during the school holidays. This made it fairly easy for me to talk to them about Ndjinaa and dementia. They requested that I should come back the next day to show them the full slide show. Unfortunately they had no power in the classroom and I had to rely on my phone. However, Susanne was very happy, because this gave her the opportunity to hand out her question sheets that questioned the writer about his background, that of the family, the elderly in the family and about witchcraft. We distributed about 200 of these sheets and the info will be processed back in Germany.

At the one church that we visited, a woman asked for prayer. The next day we went to pick up Susanne’s question sheets from the pastor, we asked where the woman lived. He told us that her family reckons that she is either a witch or is bewitched. When we visited her in her little mud house, she told us that she was diagnosed with HIV AIDS, thus another HIV AIDS related dementia. She said her family isolated her because she was poor, but it was clear that it was because they thought she was bewitched. At the taxi rank another woman came to us. She too talked very incoherent and was seen as a witch by her family. After a while, she too told us, that she was HIV AIDS positive.

At the place where we stayed, we met an American who is busy with research on malaria in the area. He told us that the Zambezi Region has the highest HIV AIDS statistics in Namibia at 25%. All pregnant women get tested for it and about 38% of them test positive. In the time that we were in the region, we could not find someone with Dementia older than 55. Everyone was about 40 years old and had HIV AIDS.

During our evening discussions, I often told Susanne, that unlike in the rest of the world, in Africa, the number of dementia patients are far younger. They also don’t live with Alzheimer’s disease like 75% of the world’s dementia cases, but rather of HIV AIDS. I also have a suspicion that the double stigma of AIDS and bewitching are worsened by the rejection and isolation from the family. This makes ADN’s mission a bit more complicated and a huge challenge.


To be Continued…

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 2)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

On our way to Love More’s village, he told us that his dad’s sister bewitched their family and in that way, acquired the whole village. According to him, his sister, Ofelia, is also mentally disturbed or bewitched. And so Love More and Ofelia were the first interviews we had in the Zambezi Region.

According to Love More this is the reason why he was attacked, so that he could not look after his family anymore. Ofelia has also worked at a supermarket in Katima Mulilo as a cashier until a few years ago. But she could not continue as she couldn’t count money anymore and made regular mistakes. This is one of the symptoms of dementia, but as Susanne pointed out, this is also signs of HIV. And as dementia is often caused by HIV AIDS, we tried to determine whether Ofelia has been tested for HIV but apparently, according to her and Love More, she tested negative. But she had two children from different fathers. When we enquired about them, we learned that the one was in Zambia and the other lived in a village close to the Bukolo filling station. Ofelia stated that he was also bewitched and Love More was very vague about this man’s whereabouts.

Obviously, we went to these villages next. Love More went with us, to help find the man. When we found him, he told us that he was three years old. He also continued to clap his hands like they would do to show respect to an elderly. We later found out, that years ago, he was diagnosed with HIV AIDS.


To be Continued…

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

Friday afternoon, 15th August, we (Susanne and I) arrive in Katima Mulilo. On the banks of the Zambezi is a beautiful overnight stop that we choose to stay in. Unfortunately for us, NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) are busy taking it over and the Prime Minister and his crew checked in just before us. We therefore have to move as the chalets available have no water. However, the ladies at reception is very helpful and when they hear what we do and why we are in the Zambezi Region, they advise and direct us to the offices of NBC (Namibian Broadcasting Corporation). This would help us with the search for people that are bewitched. We have to leave quickly as we are told that the Zambezi Region is on Central African Time and not on Namibian Time and so we have lost an hour.

At the offices of NBC, we find two vehicles parked in length across the pavement. I decide to follow suit, but the security guard is quick to tell me that I have to park sideways to give other people space as well. Not sure why, I decide to quickly do this, as not to waste any more time. Inside, we are quickly helped and I quickly scribble an announcement on paper. The whole process takes us at most 15 minutes. Outside, Susanne and I wonder how we will ever know if they will actually broadcast this as we don’t understand a word Lozi – one of the five languages spoken in the Zambezi Region.

From the offices to the car it took us about five minutes and then we immediately dialed into the local NBC station and were just in time to hear an announcement of which we understood nothing but my cellphone number. I started to drive immediately as Susanne got into trouble for trying to take a photo of the NBC offices?! My phone started ringing and the first calls came in. Two cut the line when they realized I am no Lozi-speaking-witch. Another one told me very clearly he didn’t want to speak to me.

After that first call from a woman in Windhoek who told us about her brother who desperately needed help, we didn’t have another quiet time again. The woman on the phone asked me whether I was a traditional healer (black African) or a psychologist (white African)? The next morning we met her brother, Love More, at the filling station in Bukalo. Love More had only one eye – the other he lost in January after being attacked in Windhoek.

On our way to Love More’s village, he told us that his dad’s sister bewitched their family and in that way, acquired the whole village. According to him, his sister, Ofelia, is also mentally disturbed or bewitched. And so Love More and Ofelia were the first interviews we had in the Zambezi Region.

To be continued…


Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen 14th August 2014

I apologise for only writing now, but last night I was just too tired. This morning Susanne and I took the long (and straight) road to the end of the Zambesi Strip (the old Caprivi Strip).

Yesterday was an incredible day in the history of Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia. We had our first appointment at 8am with the nursing management team of UNAM (University of Namibia) in their boardroom. (Boardroom sounds so important?!) There were about 8 women. I showed them our slide show featuring Ndjinaa as a starter. I also explained to them the future of ADN as we plan to educate people in order to spread the word on dementia so that Namibia can be a country of dementia friendly towns, villages and shops.

After this, questions rained down on Susanne and I. The management team explained to me that they too have visited Germany earlier in the year to gain more knowledge on looking after the elderly and also for a curriculum change they plan in 2015 about dementia. They explained that the caring that they saw for people with Dementia stunned and impressed them. They wanted more information about our house at Yakandonga and if their students would be able to live there if they sent them there for their practical.

I think the main question was this: ‘What role can the medical school of UNAM play in the vision of ADN?” We toyed with the idea that ADN and the medical school will have to take hands in the education of future nurses in the nursing/caring of people with dementia. My idea is that ADN does not have to start a dementia academy if we can work with UNAM on this regard.

We were asked to return at 14h00 to meet the rest of the staff and to share with them too our vision and the story of Ndjinaa. They reckoned that everyone needed to be familiarised with ADN to make the best possible decision for the future.

And so we returned at 14h00 to enlighten a further 20 staff members on the education of people with dementia and the training of carers so that people with dementia can enjoy a life a quality. The two lecturers of psychiatry that is currently busy creating a dementia program indicated that they would contact me. Also present was the adjunct deacon, Ms Van Der Westhuysen, who originally invited me to UNAM and she indicated that there is a possibility of a future talk to affiliate the ADN training program with that of the UNAM medical school.

Talks have started and I firmly believe that ADN will no longer be seen as just another dream from the smallest Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia, but an important instigator in the freeing of people with dementia – so that those who live with dementia and consider their lives to be ‘finished’ can have a life of quality until their end. ADN will have to play an extremely important role in the medical family of Namibia.

Susanne and closed off yesterday with a visit from another young lady who came to see us because her heart is for people with dementia.

At dinner we met a Herero man from Okakarara (our waiter), who could not believe the photos of a freed Ndjinaa on my phone. He went to call the meat chef, Kami, because Kami is a Himba from a village near Ndjinaa. And Kami could not believe what he was seeing…

Neither Susanne nor I will ever forget the expressions on his face as I showed him the photos. I have never seen anybody as stunned, confused and scared. All he kept saying was: “I see the photos, but I don’t believe it. How can Ndjinaa not be in chains? Why doesn’t she walk away? And why isn’t she aggressive and throws stones?” All this he questioned while wildly waving his chef’s knife. He called all the staff members to come and have a look. Then he finally said: “What did you do? Did you give her some kind of pill?” But I think he wanted to know whether I too, just bewitched her? All I could say was that we gave her the pill of love. And he said: “Love cannot do this. You did something else and I want to know what.”

Susanne and I waited until 11pm for him, but there were just too many guests and we left. Kami is probably working tonight again and I hope he is still cutting his meat and wondering about Ndjinaa.

I have to say good night, tomorrow is another long road and a lot of hours under trees (and in the sun) having conversations about the possibility that witchcraft is the African’s dementia/Alzheimer’s.  I think we should maybe recommend to Alzheimer’s Dementia International that they should have Bewitching Conference in Africa instead of Alzheimer’s Conferences…



Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen 13th August 2014

Susanne, a Berlin student doing her doctorate, landed yesterday here in sunny Windhoek. We immediately started to work and I took her to MDH the basis for the following newspapers; Die Republikein, Algeine Zeitung and the Namibian Sun. Here we dug through their archives looking for articles on witchery, casting of spells and of course, dementia.

After that we departed to the offices of the NGK (Dutch Reformed Church) where I was invited to attend their AGM on ECSOS – their funding for evangelism and charities. I was asked to relate the story of Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia. The response was incredibly positive and we hope that a door will open for ADN in the future.

From there we went to see a white Afrikaans speaking student nurse and a Damara speaking student nurse of UNAM. (University of Namibia). We received a lot of valuable information from these two students like that when an animal like a frog or bat is seen out of season (a frog outside the wet season or a bat that flies during the day), it is a witch and should be killed or burnt – of which burning is the preferred option.

We also received confirmation from these two students, that the symptoms of dementia and that of witchery is exactly the same. These two students have to do their practical’s in their fourth year of study (next year) and we (ADN) invited them to come to Yakandongo as one of the subjects of the fourth year is mental health. All I had to do was to bring this under the attention of their deacon.

Now we are headed for our appointed with the management of nursery at the medical department of UNAM. If they give us a green light, we might be able to speak to all the lecturers later in the day. Who knows, maybe this is the beginning of the Dementia Academy? Not? Well maybe then the start of a new chapter in ADN, and a hope for the people with dementia that has to live as if a spell has been cast upon them.



Providing Palliative Care to People with Mental Health Illnesses

Originally posted on Palliative Health:

Providing Palliative Care to People with Mental Health IllnessesAs unfortunate as it is, people who suffer from one or more mental illnesses tend to die anywhere from 10 to 15 years sooner than those who don’t have mental illnesses.  Additionally, those with mental health conditions require more in-depth end-of-life care due to their psychological needs. On the upside, there are palliative care facilities and services that are available for these people.

Understanding Mental Health Illness and Its Effect on Palliative Care

When a person suffers from a mental health illness, he or she may or may not be aware of the condition.  Take for example a person who suffers from dementia.  At times, the person may be well aware that dementia is causing problems, while at other times, the condition itself may cause the person to be unaware of its presence.  Its circumstances like this that make providing palliative care to those with mental health illnesses a…

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Link between vitamin D deficiency, dementia risk confirmed

Vitamins! Who would have thought….

Originally posted on Eideard:

An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that study participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The team studied elderly Americans who took part in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They discovered that adults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 per cent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 per cent in those who were severely deficient.

Similar results were recorded for Alzheimer’s disease, with the moderately deficient group 69 per cent more likely to develop this type of dementia, jumping to a 122 per cent increased risk for those severely deficient…

Dr Llewellyn said: “We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the…

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Day 370 – An Itch That Can’t Be Scratched

We all need laughter and humour – even in the midst of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Originally posted on Not Forgotten:

Every now and again, there comes a moment of levity that reduces the strains on life. An inappropriate word or phrase accidentally spoken out loud at the wrong place, the wrong time. A giggle so infectious that it ripples through all corners of the room. The off-key crooning of inebriated co-workers at a late-night, karaoke bar. Humor can even make an appearance during those lonely days of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s a bleak February day in Vancouver. Winter has not only come, but decided to extend its stay with torrential downpours only a meteorologist could love. My girlfriend, Anna, and I’ve just spent the afternoon with my mom at The Duchess, eating a grease-laden lunch before watching a non-descript movie from the 80s that features neon colors, synthesized music, and a video montage.

As we prepare to leave her apartment, my mom lets out an exasperated…

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