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…