A Tale of Two Systems: Beliefs and Practices of South African Muslim and Hindu Traditional Healers Regarding Cleft Lip and Palate

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Objectives:This South African study compared the views of 15 Muslim and 8 Hindu traditional healers regarding the etiology and treatment of craniofacial clefts, reasons for people consulting with them, and collaboration with Western professionals.Data Analysis:The original data were collected via individual interviews. Secondary data analysis was conducted to highlight common themes.Results:Four Hindu and 12 Muslim healers believed that the condition was God sent. Both groups acknowledged the existence of various superstitions within their communities. For example, if a pregnant woman handled a sharp object during an eclipse, her infant could be born with a cleft. All Hindu healers also attributed clefts to karma.All the Muslim healers counseled patients and families. Fourteen referred people for medical help, 10 emphasized the importance of prayer, and 3 recommended the wearing of amulets containing a prayer. No Hindu healers provided direct treatment. Three advised parents to fast, six arranged fire and purification ceremonies in the temples, and three consulted the person's astrological chart to dispel any bad karma. Both groups of healers advised people to give to charity.Eight Hindu healers and eight Muslim healers believed that people consulted with them because of cultural influences and because they alleviated feelings of guilt. Four Hindu and 13 Muslim healers favored collaboration with Western practitioners.Conclusions:Findings highlight the need for culturally sensitive rehabilitation practices, collaboration, referrals, and information sharing between Eastern and Western health care practitioners.

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