Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Health System Collapses, Zimbabwe Turns to Street Herbs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Health System Collapses, Zimbabwe Turns to Street Herbs

Article excerpt

HARARE, Zimbabwe * Zimbabwe's public health system is collapsing along with the economy, with some major hospitals suspending all nonemergency surgeries because painkillers are scarce.

Some in this southern African country are turning to the growing number of peddlers of traditional medicines, many of them young men occupying street corners in the capital, Harare.

"Faulty gear boxes, blown-out fuses. I can fix it all!" shouted Shepherd Mushore. He stood outside a now-closed garage, but he is no mechanic. He displayed tree barks, roots and leaves of all kinds.

"Gear boxes and fuses" are his euphemisms for sexual matters.

"I can treat all types of diseases that you know. I am not a herb seller. I am an African doctor," Mushore, 34, said.

His baseball cap and T-shirt were emblazoned with the U.S. flag. The beads around his neck and skinny jeans completed the picture of a hip-hop wannabe, not an herbalist.

Mushore admitted he was not trained in traditional medicine.

"I don't have to. I get visions in my dreams," he said.

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, a regulatory body, said it was battling to control the "influx" of people selling herbs and other medicines.

"People need to be conscientious and try not to be so gullible," said Richard Rukwata, the authority's spokesman. "There all these inflated claims around a lot of these herbs and medicines that are being sold by lay persons. But members of the public, some of them actually believe that those things work."

One of the people who believe they have found a cure on the streets is Zvisinei Nyamudeza.

In quick succession, he gulped four small cups of syrup, a concoction of green and brown substances stored in dirty two-liter containers.

"He is my doctor," Nyamudeza said, patting street herbalist Mushore on the back while downing the final cup. He caught a breath before Mushore handed him a bunch of fresh green leaves, which Nyamudeza chewed eagerly. …

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