Note: The Ghana Homeopathy Project is an organization whose goal is the establishment of homeopathy as a recognised part of the health care system in Africa and Ghana in particular. Their objective is the relief and prevention of disease. They support the development of homeopathic education and wish to make homeopathy available to deprived communities as a valid and affordable form of treatment.
(See Ralf Jeutter’s Ghana Casebooks also in this issue.)
For three weeks in July-August this year I was a volunteer for the Ghana Homeopathy Project. One of the impressive achievements of this organisation is the introduction of a two year course of homeopathy. My role as a volunteer consisted partly of teaching a first year homeopathy group in Accra, capital of Ghana, and to practise and teach the art of homeopathy to volunteers in the Volta region of Ghana. The two worlds could not have been more different to work and live in. Accra is the bustling, busy and sprawling capital of Ghana. It is a loud, polluted and often challenging place, where people above all live to make a living, whatever form that takes. While Mafi Seva, the village in the Volta region is, by contrast a picture book African village with clay houses and straw roofs, very dark and quiet nights and a tempo befitting pre-industrial societies.
The teaching in Accra centered mostly on differential Materia Medica, which was enthusiastically received by the students, who are not only interested and committed, but also very warm and welcoming. The work with the students alone would have made the stay worth it. Equally satisfying and inspiring was the participation in the country clinic. Villagers in Ghana rely on the services of the clinic staff and volunteers, who deliver many of the basic medical services in the countryside. The homeopathic clinic is situated next to a clinic for reproductive health and a maternity ward, run by a TBA (Traditional Birthing Assistant). The work carried out in Mafi Seva is truly astonishing. Babies get born in the most natural way indeed, with minimum pharmacological and technological intervention. This is of course not always by choice, but by necessity. Homeopathy is used at the clinic alongside conventional treatments. The Mafi Seva primary health care centre aims to provide integrated health care, using the most appropriate form of treatment for the patient.
Other staff members at the village clinic have learned the basic skills of stitching up wounds, giving local anaesthetics, delivering First Aid, etc. All of this is done with great competence and under far from ideal circumstances. The night I arrived I saw one of the staff stitching up a gashing wound of an eight year old boy who went fishing with his machete, but ended up slashing himself badly on the lower leg. The staff member had a head torch (there is no electricity in the clinic after 8pm), and closed the wound expertly, while the boy was sitting outside on a chair, being comforted by two grown-ups.
Since the clinic is a primary care provider the range of cases a homeopath sees here are very wide ranging: acute infectious diseases, work related injuries to eyes, back and limbs (most of the patients are farm workers), a case of suspected pericarditis; headache since childhood; epilepsy, and a whole range of skin complaints. By and large the cases were straightforward (at least in the countryside; in Accra, life style factors, like in the west, played a much larger role). Most cases had not been treated before with conventional medication, which often made prescribing easier. An added bonus was that we could, at times, keep patients with acute complaints in the clinic for a few hours and observe the effect of the homeopathic treatment within that time.
Doing charity work in Ghana is exhausting and demanding, and at the same time deeply satisfying, because one can witness how useful homeopathy is, especially in developing countries, where access to medical facilities is poor, and often expensive.
I came back thoroughly revitalised and further strengthened in my conviction that homeopathy has a big role to play in the medicine of the future.
Linda Shannon, who, together with Angelika Metzger, runs the Ghana project, have this message for those of you reading this article:
The Ghana Homeopathy Project is looking for homeopaths with 5 years or more experience to join us as a volunteer for both short stays of 2-3 weeks and longer. Your trip would involve teaching on our 2 year certificate course and working in Mafi Seva village. We would also like to find homeopaths who can stay for several months to co-ordinate the project from the Ghana side. We greatly appreciate financial support to help with our work. Please see our website www.ghanahomeopathy.org for more information.