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No data shows 80% of Africans use traditional medicine for ‘basic health needs’

This article is more than 7 years old

Do “about 80% of Africa's population” rely on traditional medicine for their “basic health needs”? This is what South Africa’s Department of Health claims in a recent tweet:

Over the years the statistic has been cited widely by a variety of sources - from the BBC to the South African Medical Journal. It has been given authority by a number of World Health Organisation (WHO) reports which have recycled the claim in various forms.

However, a 2013 Africa Check investigation found that no data or research supports the claim. Rather it could be traced to an unsubstantiated statement in a book published in 1983.

There is currently no research on the extent of traditional healer use for primary health care needs in Africa. But country studies have shown usage rates are far lower than the 80% commonly cited.

South Africa’s 2015 general household survey found that only 0.5% of households said they would first go to a traditional healer when someone fell ill or was injured. The vast majority (70.5%) said they would rather visit a public clinic or hospital.

A 2011 comparative assessment of herbal and orthodox medicines in Nigeria found that “only 41% of the respondents took herbal medicines as their first drug of choice”.

In Ghana, just 1.5% of participants in the 2007-2010 WHO Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health reported consulting most frequently with a traditional medicine practitioner when they felt sick or needed to consult someone about their health. - 26/08/2016


Additional reading:

Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false

Use of traditional medicine in middle-income countries: a WHO-SAGE study


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