Patients in western Kenya counties are turning to herbalists as the strike by doctors continues to paralyse services in hospitals countrywide.
The herbalists in Kisumu and Kisii counties are cashing in on the strike to sell herbs to desperate patients who cannot afford expensive private hospitals.
A number of posters have been erected in various towns to announce the services.
Doctors downed their tools nearly three months ago, demanding implementation of a 2013 collective bargaining agreement and several rounds of negotiations to reach a pay deal have failed.
Kisii County Herbalist and Research Centre chairman Enock Nyakeruri told Nation on Sunday that since the strike started, the number of patients visiting him had increased.
“We treat these patients and the herbs we use are very effective, especially in treating and curing diseases like amoeba, typhoid, infertility, impotence and epilepsy,” he said, adding that people were gaining trust in them.
When Nation visited Ms Jessica Atieno Omuok, an herbalist popularly known as Mama Winnie, in Kasule village, Kisumu County, on Sunday, there was a large group of patients waiting to be attended to.
Ms Omuok, who treats ailments such as malaria, typhoid, ovarian cyst, herpes, ear and nose problems among others, said that since the strike began on December 5, there has been an increase in the number of people seeking her services.
“Patients come from as far as Mombasa and Nairobi seeking medical attention. I am taking in twice as many patients as I used to,” she said, attributing the increase in the number of patients to the doctors’ strike. One of her patients, Ms Pamela Owino, an expectant mother, said that she feared losing her baby because she cannot afford the care at private hospitals.
“The situation in the country has made me turn to her (Mama Winnie) for help. Since I come from a poor background,” she said.
Naomi Mogaka and Priscah Onyancha, herbalists in Kisii, said traditional doctors are trusted by many people in the Abagusii community, to treat oral thrush commonly referred to as omonu and gynaecological conditions such as candidiasis.
“We have been trusted for years to treat infant conditions including oral thrush and rashes. Men and women also come to us when they experience problems in their reproductive organs,” said the two women.
Ms Linda Kemunto, another herbalist based at the Kisii Stadium, said she had treated a number of people who complained of stomach ache and sexually transmitted infections.
She said she had gained a trusting clientele as a result of successfully treating her patients.
Reports by Nyaboga Kiage, Elgar Machuka and Sarah Odhiambo