Working in a Ghanian village

Working in a Ghanian village: from Society Of Homeopaths Newsletter, summer 2009

Noam Bar RSHom has volunteered for the Maun Homeopathy Project in Botswana, where he’s spent 9 months, and for the Ghana Homeopathy Project where he’s spent a month. In this article he reflects on the differences between practising in different parts of Africa and in the UK.

Having had the chance to practice both in Botswana and Ghana, it is interesting to compare these two African countries. Although located in different parts of the continent, South and West Africa, there are some similarities between them: both are relatively stable politically and economically, and the people are generous, good-natured and peace-loving. But they are also very different. In my eyes, this is largely due to the different socio-economic conditions (which naturally are only part of a very complex picture).

Botswana traditionally relies on cattle herding. Sadly, the country is very dry, and cannot support a growing population. Newfound mineral wealth supplies the government with plenty of cash, but cash cannot be simply doled out. People need to work for money, and with agriculture limited, they have to work in industry or services. But both industries are virtually non-existent, and very few have the entrepreneurial skills needed to establish new businesses. Taken away from the land, but with no alternative occupation, having no qualifications relevant to 21st century economy, many feel disempowered, estranged and rejected – themes of the AIDS miasm. It comes as no surprise then that the incidence of HIV/Aids in Botswana is above 30%.

Interestingly, this is not the case in Ghana, where HIV incidence is much lower. Ghana is a fertile country, where intensive farming has been practiced for centuries. Although the population has grown considerably in the last decades, there is still enough land to cultivate. Most farmers are subsistence farmers, but normally they also have a little surplus which they can sell for a bit of cash, allowing them to buy the bare necessities. Since the Ghanaian way of life has not changed dramatically, and political events have been benign by African standards, the social fabric is largely intact.

It follows that practicing homeopathy in both countries is very different. While in Botswana I treated almost only HIV+ patients, the clinics operated by the Ghana Homeopathy project supply general primary care, similarly to a GP surgery in the UK, perhaps combined with an A&E unit for minor injuries.

Seva, where I practiced this spring, is a small village in the Volta region, about three hours drive from the capital Accra, and about 15 minutes away from the nearest tarmac road and electricity supply. By European standards, people in Seva are very poor, but luckily enough there are no TVs to rub it in their faces. At Seva clinic conventional medications and homeopathic treatment are both available depending upon the nature of the patient’s condition

All this makes for a very unique practicing environment. The clarity of the cases and the speed and decisiveness of the ensuing healing demonstrate the upside of this state of scarcity and simplicity. The results also demonstrate unambiguously the incredible power of homeopathy. I’ve found the work in Seva highly empowering, and would like to share this feeling by narrating a few cases.

A girl of seven-years-old girl came supported by her mum. She could hardly walk. Her mother held her by the arm, and the moment she let go the girl collapsed like a rag doll. She had diarrhea, fever, and vomited immediately after drinking, even the smallest quantity. 15 minutes after a dose of Arsenicum 200 she asked for a drink and kept it down, and 30 minutes later asked for food for the first time in 36 hours. Two days later she returned with the same complaint. After Arsenicum 200 she was only marginally improved, so we gave Arsenicum 10M (we had no 1M). Within 30 minutes she was fine, and stayed this way.

Another bonus which we don’t have back home is the possibility to ask patients to wait in the clinic, in order to observe the remedy reaction. This is especially useful for acute conditions in children, as the following case demonstrates:

A six months old baby was brought in suffering from high fever for the previous three days. When he was brought in, however, he had no symptoms. I wondered why the mother was so worried. Is it her first child, I asked? No, actually, it’s the sixth. African mothers have strong nerves, especially if they’ve had six children, so something must be wrong. Still, we had absolutely nothing to prescribe on, and so we sent her home. But she decided to stay. Four hours later she was still sitting in the shade. Until finally, at 14.30, she brought the child back. Hot dry head and 3pm aggravation! Belladonna 200 sorted him out in 20 minutes.

These are not unusual cases – we’ve had many cases similar to these. I haven’t made a precise analysis, but I think that it is fair to say that in Seva, nearly all the acute cases were cured quickly and efficiently, usually on the first prescription. The results for chronic cases are obviously more difficult to assess, but are certainly better than what we’d expect in the UK. Such amazing results, and all of this achieved with nothing but an improved Kent repertory (Essential Synthesis) and Boericke.

In Botswana, by comparison, cases, being HIV-related, will be necessarily more chronic, and, consequently, results will be often less immediate, if not less striking. Hilary Fairclough, the Maun project creator, found that the power of the disease needs to be matched by a different prescribing protocol, and when there I was using triad prescribing (miasmatic, fundamental and acute remedies, given in alternation), rather than classical prescribing, as I’ve done in Ghana.

It’s not all fun, of course. Cases are often very challenging, and I sometimes needed to muster every ounce of confidence I had. Rarely, patients do pass away, and this can be very disturbing. Being away from basic amenities can be exhausting. But overall, for me this is a great way to deepen the practice and to overcome, if only for a few weeks, the frustrating lack of patients, appreciation and clinical clarity which I’ve come to take as part and parcel of practising in the UK.

Noam Bar was in Ghana as a volunteer with the Ghana Homeopathy Project  <> working with Seva co-ordinator Sheila Ryan  <>, and in Botswana with the Maun Homeopathy Project <>.
Noam Bar <>

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