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Opinions of Sunday, 10 February 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Quashigah, Spiritual Healing, and Healthcare

Unlike most part of the world, Africa is the only region where most of its development values aren’t balanced. The thinking here is that Africa’s per-colonial development values aren’t given the same prominence as the ex-colonial ones in the continent’s progress unlike countries in Southeast Asia. While the problem was initially caused by colonialism, African elites have not worked hard enough to re-do and harmonize their two contending values – the traditional and the Western - for progress, as, say, the Japanese and the Indians have done.

Prominent African scholars and observers are aware of this but the trouble is how far they have attempted to harmonize the two competing Africas – the traditional and the neo-liberal driven. Ghana’s former chair of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Y. K. Amoako, has stated that the African region is the only area in the world where its development values are foreign dominated. Though really true the contentious nature of the development values have more to do with power than what obtains on the ground. The fact is most Africans, who form the over 80 percent of the informal sector, access not the dominant ex-colonial neo-liberal Western development values or institutions but traditional values and institutions.

It is here that their health issue comes in. Once again, most Ghanaians access traditional healthcare systems, like other traditional institutions and values, of all kinds than the Western orthodox ones but the traditional hasn’t been given as much respect and prominence as the Western, particularly when making policies. Despite the reason being historical, Ghanaian elites, yet to free themselves from the blindness of their ex-colonial values, have not demonstrated as much thinking as those in Southeast Asia where they have been able to complement their traditional and Western healthcare systems in such a way that their traditional is as dignified as the Western.

But such slumbering situation is being addressed gradually - in fact in some quarters there are more vigour, as we see in Courage Quashigah, the Health Minister, and one of those not only grappling with how to weave Ghana’s traditional values into its neo-liberal-dominated development process but actually painstakingly appropriating them as see in his health policies overtime to weave traditional medicine into the formal healthcare system.

The importance of Quashigah’s interaction wasn’t only with traditional medicine practitioners but more deeply with traditional faith healers, for long overshadowed by orthodox medicine that described traditional healing in such unpalatable words like “pagan,” “fetish,” and “primitive.” By broadening contacts with traditional medicine practitioners, Quashigah, who has the ability to think first from within Ghanaian traditional values to the global development level, has given respect, regards, confidence, dignity and concerns to traditional medicine. The idea is to overturn many an error of yesteryears and awaken Ghanaian/African traditional development values and paradigms.

This makes Quashigah’s long-running and careful attempts to help broaden Ghana’s development paradigms from the perspectives of its traditional values noteworthy. And also this explains his new “regenerative health and nutrition project as a total paradigm shift from curative health care” that respectively includes Traditional Medicine Practitioners' Council and leadership of the traditional Faith Healers Association.

The attempts are to re-order the Ghanaian healthcare system that has for long being unbalanced and biased against traditional practices, and make it more holistic and affordable to most Ghanaians. The fuller embrace of Ghanaians of Quashigah’s thinking also reveals that Ghanaians want developmental change that flows from their traditional values as well as from their ex-colonial and the global development values.



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