Via the Baobab blog of The Economist: Ebola in Sierra Leone: Which doctor? Excerpt:
Many people in Sierra Leone, where an ebola epidemic has gripped the country for the first time, refuse to accept that the disease can be tackled by Western medicine. They prefer to use traditional healers instead. This may make it spread faster. At least 22 people have died so far; another 96 have been infected.
The Sierra Leonean authorities are therefore up against both a health-care problem and a cultural one. Traditional healers and herbalists are popular across west Africa. With secret recipes of herbs and potions, they claim to cure everything from the common cold to malaria.
“We’re only looking at the ears of the hippo,” says Amara Jambai, Sierra Leone’s director of disease prevention and control. “Many cases stay in the communities because people still like to use alternative sources of treatment. So we miss a lot of cases and only capture a few.”
Plenty reckon that those who succumb to the disease are victims of a curse fired by a “witch gun”; Western medicine is thought to offer little defence against it. Only a witch doctor can have the curse removed—for a fee.
Official health workers sometimes face physical resistance from those they seek to help. Some have been denied access to the sick; others have been refused blood samples. In one incident, medical staff were stoned by villagers bent on removing ebola patients from a health centre.