Solving Health Issues in Ethiopia with Religion

By Iulia O. Basu-Zharku
2011, Vol. 3 No. 01 | pg. 3/3 |

Conclusion

Ethiopia has numerous health issues to deal with. In this, one of the major assets in fighting these problems is . In its official form, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, many prevention programs (especially for HIV/AIDS), either internal to the Church or planned and organized in conjunction with other organizations, such as the Population Council, are undergoing under the patronage of the EOC. These programs are much more efficient for several reasons: the EOC’s vast network of church members (e.g., priests, believers, church staff), it’s material and financial resources, it’s credibility among the believers, and it’s numerous partnerships with the Ethiopian government but also with various NGOs. Moreover, major religious denominations seem to influence women’s decisions about using contraceptives and seeking antenatal care, more so than traditional religions.

However, traditional religions and various forms of syncretism are crucial in other ways to solving Ethiopia’s health issues.

One way in which traditional religions and cults might help is through explaining the belief system of the community. Many prevention programs start their work without having any knowledge of the traditional beliefs of the community in which they are operating, and may be inefficient because of this. Thus, many communities define health as a state of equilibrium between physiological states, Nature, social harmony, and spiritual holiness. If these programs fail to take at least one more factor aside from the physiological state in consideration, they are doomed to fail because the community will not see them as valid and conscientious.

Another role that traditional religions play is in mediating between biomedical programs and the community. By consulting the elders (who are usually instrumental in the religious cult, as well) and attracting their confidence, programs can reach the people much more easily and efficiently. Finally, one of the most interesting effects of religion is the healing role.

Many of the traditional religions claim healing potential, and it seems that they are really efficient, although not in all domains. For example, such cults as the zar cult and the belief in the shatana are efficient especially in the case of psychological or psychiatrically relevant issues. Another way of healing is through syncretism, in which both the of the traditional religions and the official ones comes together.

Although unrecognized by the major religious denomination as such, these forms of syncretism thrive and have the people’s respect, whether it comes in the form of the debtera (healer that exhibits a form of syncretism between Orthodoxy and traditional religions), the Hawariate movement (syncretism between Protestantism and traditional religions), or syncretism between and traditional religions.

This healing power probably comes from the holistic approach that these traditional religions and syncretic forms of religion take when dealing with health issues. As such, they are an invaluable healing resource but also a mediator between the biomedical system, which many times fails to gain the respect and credibility of the people and thus fails in its mission of attracting people to clinics and treating them.


References

Abayneh, S.A., Desta, H.M., and Bekele, S.T. “Volunteers of the Ethiopia Orthodox Church-Key for the Success of HIV/AIDS Prevention.” Docstoc. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/21535044/Volunteers-Of-The-Ethiopian-Orthodox-Church---Key-For-The-Success-Of.

Adejumobi, Saheed A. The History of Ethiopia. The Greenwood Histories of The Modern Nations. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Bishaw, Makonnen. “Promoting Traditional Medicine in Ethiopia.” Social Science and Medicine 33, 2 (1991): 193-200.

Brehony, Eamonn. “Whose Practice Counts? Experiences in Using Indigenous Health Practices from Ethiopia and Uganda.” Development in Practice 10, 5 (2000): 650-661.

Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC). “Five Year Strategic Plan (2005-2009).” Docstoc. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/21535097/Ethiopian-Orthodox-Church-Development-and-Inter-Church-Aid-Commission

Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter Church Aid Commission and Civil Society Fund in Ethiopia. “EOC-DICAC Received Grant from EC-CSF for Constituency Building Project.” Docstoc. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/21525540/ETHIOPIAN-ORTHODOX-CHURCH-DEVELOPMENT-AND-INTER-CHURCH-AID

Hamer, John and Hamer, Irene. “Spirit Possession and Its Socio-Psychological Implications Among the Sidamo of Southwest Ethiopia.” Ethnology 5, no.4 (1966): 392-408.

Hassen, Mohammed and American Council of Learned Societies. The Oromo of Ethiopia. African Studies Series. Vol. 66. Cambridge England; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.02601

Hogan, Dennis P. and Biratu, Bellay. “Social Identity and Community Effects on Contraceptive Use and Intentions in Southern Ethiopia.” Studies in Family Planning 35, 2 (2004): 79-90.

Huba, Stephen. “IOCC Ethiopian Orthodox Church Expand Anti-AIDS Campaign.” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, February 3, 2004. http://www.goarch.org/news/goa.news1063.

Mekonnen, Yared and Mekonnen, Asnakech. “Factors Influencing the Use of Maternal Healthcare Services in Ethiopia.” Journal of Health Population and Nutrition 21, 4 (2003): 374-382.

Messing, Simon D. “Group Therapy and Social Status in the Zar Cult of Ethiopia.” American Anthropologist 60, no. 6 (1958): 1120-1125.

Population Council. “Developmental Bible: Integrating HIV and Other RH Information in the Teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.” January, 2010. http://www.popcouncil.org/projects/58_DevelopmentBibleHIVRHEthiopia.asp#/Overview

Population Council. “Ethiopia 2005: Results from the Demographic and Health Survey.” Studies in Family Planning 38, 2 (2007): 135-140.

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Selassie, Berhane S. & Belachew, A. “Ethiopian Orthodox Church involvement in HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support.” International conference on AIDS, 13 (2000).

Shinn, David Hamilton, Thomas P. Ofcansky, and Chris Prouty.. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. African Historical Dictionaries. New ed. Vol. 91. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Pres, 2004.

Vecchiato, Norbert L. “Ethnomedical Beliefs, Health , and Malaria Eradication in Ethiopia.” International Quarterly of Community Health Education 11, no. 4 (1991): 385-397.

Vecchiato, Norbert L. “Illness, Therapy and Change in Ethiopian Possession Cults.” Journal of the International African Institute 63, no. 2 (1993): 176-196.

Vecchiato, Norbert L. “Sociocultural Aspects of Tuberculosis Control in Ethiopia.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 11, no.2 (1997): 183-201.

Young, Allan. “Magic as a ‘Quasi-Profession: The Organization of Magic and Magical Healing among Amhara.” Ethnology 14, 3 (1975): 245-265.

Young, Allan. “Why Amhara Get ‘Kureynya’: Sickness and Possession in an Ethiopian Zar Cult.” American Ethnologist 2, no.3 (1975): 567-584.


Endnotes

1.) Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia. The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007): 190.

2.) Ibid., 3.

3.) Ibid., 190.

4.) Population Council, “Developmental Bible: Integrating HIV and Other RH Information in the Teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,” January, 2010. http://www.popcouncil.org/projects/58_DevelopmentBibleHIVRHEthiopia.asp#/Overview

5.) David Hamilton Shinn, Thomas P. Ofcansky, and Chris Prouty.. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. African Historical Dictionaries. New ed. Vol. 91.(Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Pres, 2004): 96.

6.) Ibi.151

7.) Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia. The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007): 6-15.

8.) David Hamilton Shinn, Thomas P. Ofcansky, and Chris Prouty.. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. African Historical Dictionaries. New ed. Vol. 91.(Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Pres, 2004): 152.

9.) Ibid., 87.

10.) Ibid., 225.

11.) Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia. The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007): 8-9.

12.) Mohammed Hasen and American Council of Learned Societies, The Oromo of Ethiopia, African Studies Series. Vol. 66. (Cambridge England; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.02601: xiii.

13.) Ibid., 1.

14.) Ibid., 150-3.

15.) David Hamilton Shinn, Thomas P. Ofcansky, and Chris Prouty.. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. African Historical Dictionaries. New ed. Vol. 91.(Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Pres, 2004): 204.

16.) UN Millennium Project and Ebooks Corporation, Investing in Strategies to Reverse the Global Incidence of TB, UN Millennium Development Library, London: Earthscan, 2005, http://www.fairfield.eblib.com/ EBLWeb/patron?target=patron&extendedid=P_430198_0&: 122-3: 122.

17.) Stephen Huba. “IOCC Ethiopian Orthodox Church Expand Anti-AIDS Campaign,” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, February 3, 2004, http://www.goarch.org/news/goa.news1063.

18.) David Hamilton Shinn, Thomas P. Ofcansky, and Chris Prouty.. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. African Historical Dictionaries. New ed. Vol. 91.(Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Pres, 2004): 204.

19.) UN Millenium Project and EBooks Corporation, Coming to Grips with Malaria in the New Millenium, UN Millennium Development Library, London: Earthscan, 2005, http://www.fairfield.eblib.com/ EBLWeb/patron?target=patron&extendedid=P_430198_0&: 94.

20.) UN Millennium Project and Ebooks Corporation, Investing in Strategies to Reverse the Global Incidence of TB, UN Millennium Development Library, London: Earthscan, 2005, http://www.fairfield.eblib.com/ EBLWeb/patron?target=patron&extendedid=P_430198_0&: 122-3.

21.) Population Council, “Ethiopia 2005: Results from the Demographic and Health Survey,” Studies in Family Planning 38, 2 (2007): 139.

22.) Yared Mekonnen and Asnakech Mekonnen, “Factors Influencing the Use of Maternal Healthcare Services in Ethiopia,” Journal of Health Population and Nutrition 21, 4 (2003): 374.

23.) Ibid., 376-8.

24.) Ibid., 378-9.

25.) Hogan, Dennis P. and Biratu, Bellay. “Social Identity and Community Effects on Contraceptive Use and Intentions in Southern Ethiopia.” Studies in Family Planning 35, 2 (2004): 80.

26.) Ibid., 87-9.

27.) Berhane S. Selassie, & A. Belachew. “Ethiopian Orthodox Church involvement in HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support.” International conference on AIDS, 13 (2000).

28.) Stephen Huba. “IOCC Ethiopian Orthodox Church Expand Anti-AIDS Campaign,” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, February 3, 2004, http://www.goarch.org/news/goa.news1063.

29.) Ibid.

30.) Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC), “Five Year Strategic Plan (2005-2009),” Docstoc http://www.docstoc.com/docs/21535097/Ethiopian-Orthodox-Church-Development-and-Inter-Church-Aid-Commission: 16-8.

31.) Ibid., 38-40.

32.) Ibid., 20.

33.) Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter Church Aid Commission and European Union Civil Society Fund in Ethiopia, “EOC-DICAC Received Grant from EC-CSF for Constituency Building Project,” Docstoc. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/21525540/ETHIOPIAN-ORTHODOX-CHURCH-DEVELOPMENT-AND-INTER-CHURCH-AID

34.) Population Council, “Developmental Bible: Integrating HIV and Other RH Information in the Teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,” January, 2010. http://www.popcouncil.org/projects/58_DevelopmentBibleHIVRHEthiopia.asp#/Overview

35.) S.A. Abayneh, H.M. Deste, and S.T. Bekele, “Volunteers of the Ethiopia Orthodox Church-Key for the Success of HIV/AIDS Prevention,” Docstoc. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/21535044/Volunteers-Of-The-Ethiopian-Orthodox-Church---Key-For-The-Success-Of.

36.) MakonnenBishaw, “Promoting Traditional Medicine in Ethiopia,” Social Science and Medicine 33, 2 (1991): 194.

37.) Norbert L. Vecchiato, “Ethnomedical Beliefs, Health Education, and Malaria Eradication in Ethiopia,” International Quarterly of Community Health Education 11, no. 4 (1991): 387-94.

38.) Norbert L. Vecchiato, “Sociocultural Aspects of Tuberculosis Control in Ethiopia,” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 11, no.2 (1997): 188-92.

39.) Ibid., 186. Also, Norbert L. Vecchiato “Illness, Therapy and Change in Ethiopian Possession Cults,” Journal of the International African Institute 63, no. 2 (1993): 179.

40.) Allan Young, “Why Amhara Get ‘Kureynya’: Sickness and Possession in an Ethiopian Zar Cult,” American Ethnologist 2, no.3 (1975): 571-3.

41.) Ibid., 580-1.

42.) Simon D. Messing, “Group Therapy and Social Status in the Zar Cult of Ethiopia,” American Anthropologist 60, no. 6 (1958): 1123-4.

43.) John Hamer and Irene Hamer, “Spirit Possession and Its Socio-Psychological Implications Among the Sidamo of Southwest Ethiopia,” Ethnology 5, no.4 (1966): 397-9.

44.) Ibid., 402-4.

45.) Ibid., 404-6.

46.) Norbert L. Vecchiato “Illness, Therapy and Change in Ethiopian Possession Cults,” Journal of the International African Institute 63, no. 2 (1993): 177.

47.) Allan Young, “Why Amhara Get ‘Kureynya’: Sickness and Possession in an Ethiopian Zar Cult,” American Ethnologist 2, no.3 (1975): 573-4.

48.) Young, Allan. “Magic as a ‘Quasi-Profession: The Organization of Magic and Magical Healing among Amhara.” Ethnology 14, 3 (1975): 245.

49.) Ibid., 252-6.

50.) Norbert L. Vecchiato “Illness, Therapy and Change in Ethiopian Possession Cults,” Journal of the International African Institute 63, no. 2 (1993): 183-4.

51.) Ibid., 181-2.

52.) Ibid., 185-6.

53.) Brehony, Eamonn. “Whose Practice Counts? Experiences in Using Indigenous Health Practices from Ethiopia and Uganda.” Development in Practice 10, 5 (2000): 656-8.

54.) MakonnenBishaw, “Promoting Traditional Medicine in Ethiopia,” Social Science and Medicine 33, 2 (1991): 199.

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