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Oct 26, 2012

Heal the World says traditional healers

Traditional healers from across the country are meeting in Belmopan. They are discussing what is called traditional knowledge, specifically traditional healing and medicine. The topic is broad; it includes songs, music, storytelling and agriculture. According to NICH, it wants to revive that form of alternative medicine which will find its way was part of a national cultural policy.


Delahnie Bain, Reporting

Alternative medicine is a practice that is fading in Belize, but NICH, through the Institute of Social and Cultural Research, is holding on to the custom and today hosted the second traditional healers forum. The event included a display of herbs and other natural medicines as well as reading material on alternative medicine and presentations by the healers.


Nigel Encalada, Director, Institute of Social and Cultural Research

Nigel Encalada

“We’ve invited healers from across the country to discuss three particular things: one, what constitutes a Belizean traditional healer; two, how is the knowledge acquired and how does one become a traditional or practitioner in a particular—whether it’s a bone setter, a midwife, a herbalist or an acupuncturist, there’s a whole cross—and then to even understand what the cross section of traditional medicine is in Belize.  And three, identify ways through which we can preserve and promote traditional healing and perhaps integrate it better into Belizean life. Of course, one of the critical parts of it as well has to do with asking the questions are there negative side effects. One of the broad concerns in society; what are the negative side effects and so even those things we’re addressing.”


Over forty healers from the far north to the deep south converged at the George Price Center in Belmopan to discuss their practice. Francisco Caal, a healer with thirty-five years of experience travelled from all the way in Indianville, Toledo to share his expertise in treating snake bites among other ailments.


Francisco Caal

Francisco Caal, Traditional Healer (Via Translator)

“I would use a series of medications, some of the medications I’m not really sure what their English names are but the medications are baknil pim. These are the medications that would be put onto the wounded area. And then afterwards the wounded area would be cut open a little bit so that the venom is put together and is extracted from the person.  One of the other major conditions that is seen within the community is epilepsy. Epilepsy is not readily treated in hospital but in the community and rural forest we find the remedies for these conditions.”


Elizabeth Penner, Traditional Healer

“I got into it because I’m a survivor of cancer. I went to doctors and doctors and they did many surgeries; about fifteen surgeries on my stomach and colon.  Eventually, I just realized I would die and the doctors gave up on me. So I turned to alternative medicine. Actually I went to Canada and that’s where a herbalist really helped me and that’s where I had later my training.”


Lucia Ellis, Traditional Healer

Elizabeth Penner

“I practice herbalism, I practice spiritual healing and I’ve also started to do research—I’ve done research and introduced what we’d call new age healing system into my work.  I learned all of this when it was used on me; my mom, my grandma and different elders around introduced me to herbs and massage and different healing arts to deal with myself and my family health issues.”


According to Nigel Encalada, the Director of ISCR, while traditional medicine offers a more natural approach to health, it also comes with financial benefits that can be tapped into in Belize.


Nigel Encalada

“You have an international framework by the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, Latina America, framework for understanding traditional medicine. So with that then there is—I think last year, traditional medicine accounted for sixty-one billion dollars across the world. And so with this sort of knowledge, you’re thinking why are we suppressing, if so, our traditional knowledge in Belize.”


The forum was also a part of the ongoing consultation process for the National Cultural Policy.


Nigel Encalada

“The forum is—we have an open session and then this afternoon we have the more structure segment where we have a specific set of questions that the healers will be looking at and brainstorming and then they will make presentations on that and then we’ll ask follow up questions if indeed we see that there are philosophical or fundamental contradictions within what is being said and then come to consensus and then that will form the basis for what goes into the National Cultural Policy document.”


Lucia Ellis

Lucia Ellis

“With this forum and we’re going to establish policy, recognition, validation of these systems, people will be more comfortable in accessing traditional healing systems. The benefit of this also is that the health system cannot meet all the needs of our population. You heard recently Dr. Longsworth speaking about K.H.M.H. rolling out a payment scheme for medical care. That is going impact our society greatly, however, there’s no need to panic. I support that move because we can help ourselves if we know how.”


Delahnie Bain for News Five.


Encalada encourages the general public to keep abreast with the consultations for the National Cultural Policy and add their opinions to the discussions.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Heal the World says traditional healers”

  1. Storm says:

    I’m sure there is some important medical knowledge in the “traditional healing” world. I hope it will be well studied so the best of the knowledge can be promoted. I don’t think surgeons and pharmaceutical companies have a monopoly on the ability to heal.

  2. baydaze says:

    Belizians must hold onto it’s healing traditions and the precious knowledge and practices from thousands of years. My great grandmother was a healer and taught my father. The big pharmaceutical companies have restricted the use of some herbs in the USA and Europe as the realize that they lose big bucks. The drug companies are not there to heal us and there is terrible side effects from all drugs perscribed, just read the warnings on the leaflets.
    They will not work along side traditional healing, Slowly people are turning back to natural ways of healing which covers mind body and spirit.

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