Vol 27 No 1 (2018): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Social Studies

Public health and traditional medicine in Namibia

Maylin Meincke
Nordic Journal of African Studies
Published September 16, 2018


International and regional public health policy have been promoting an integration and regulation of traditional medicine and their practitioners since the late 1970s with the aim to ensure the safety of the traditional healers’ patients and to improve healthcare services in rural areas by utilising traditional healers as auxiliary healthcare personnel. Contrary to many other African countries, such as South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, Namibia has still not officially recognised traditional medicine and its practitioners as a complementary healthcare system. Nevertheless, traditional healers continue to provide their services to Namibians. This paper seeks to explore how the Namibian government, the public health system and individual traditional healers interact and collaborate in the absence of an official recognition of traditional medicine in Namibia. Data presented in this paper is based on an ethnographic exploration in Namibia from December 2011 until May 2012, including several in-depth-interviews with six traditional healers.

This article is an abridged and updated version of the fifth chapter of Maylin Meincke's award-winning DSocSci thesis submitted to the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Helsinki (2016).