AllAfrica.com ran a troubling news story this morning about Ghanaian women, living in a rural but well connected area of the country, turning to “prayer camps” rather than seeking necessary prenatal and obstetric services. I had heard some mention of these camps during my visits to Ghana and had heard that people use them as alternative forms of treatment for many conditions. In the story, a women presents at a local hospital in total agony and near death – with week-dead fetus rotting away her insides. This woman had been referred to tertiary medical care weeks prior, but instead attended a prayer camp. Fortunately, she eventually seeks medical treatment at the local hospital and survives her ordeal.

It is not uncommon in many cultures to rely upon faith or religion to help treat or prevent forms of diseases. Meditation, prayer, and other rituals are common around the world. When my husband and I moved to Boston we were tickled that our health plan covered X many annual visits to a Christian Science practitioner (we considered going for the heck of it – moral or spiritual hazard at play?).

But when does it go too far? A local human rights organization, has recently called the practices of such prayer camps, in particular those touting cures for mental illness, as a violation of human rights of people across the country. Last year, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative released a report outlining human rights abuses at such camps, describing how “patients” or as they call them “inmates” are:

“….are continuously chained and denied food and adequate shelter.”

In the article, a number of factors are mentioned as reasons why people turn to such camps: lack of supply of practioners, cost of modern treatments, culture, and lack of knowledge. Given the difficulty in trying to address all of these factors, I think this example speaks to the need for more regulation of such practices across the country.

I was incredibly impressed that some of the prayer camps even have their own websites. To sign up, you can visit one of these sites to get more information, although I do not guarantee what you will get…

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1 Response » to “Why are pregnant Ghanaian women turning to prayer over modern medicine?”

  1. Bobbett says:

    My heart goes out to these women who believe that religion is there only hope. This is a true example of cultural influence at its worst. What can be done to change this behavior?

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