Only a few months ago, in small village in Northern Tanzania, rumors began to spread of a retired Luthern pastor with a  miracle cure. For 500 shillings (or 25 cents), just one dose of his concoction was said to cure those afflicted with incurable diseases, from HIV/AIDS to Cancer.  It wasn’t long before the news spread across the district, region and country of  Loliondo. In what seemed like overnight pandemonium, sick people from across East Africa flocked to get the miracle cure; a cup of a boiled liquid made from local herbs. In just a few weeks, the village which was originally only inhabited by a few hundred people, was suddenly flooded with thousands of sick people waiting in line for the cure.  Now, 3 months later, there are over 24,000 people waiting in line, and a queue of cars over 15km long, as people take the near impossible journey in the raining season, down a one way road to reach Loliondo.

Thousands are now claiming to be cured by the healer, and the news seems to have travelled across Southern Africa.  There are rumours that the rich and famous are even flocking to see him, with eye witnesses claiming to see the helicopters of political leaders such as Mandela and Mugabe entering the small village.

However, the situation is growing more dire by the day. The small village has no capacity to handle such an influx of people: there is not enough food, not enough water, no sanitation systems, and only a small clinic that can’t handle the sick that have suddenly appeared at their doorstep. There are some claiming that hundreds have died just on the journey to get to the village, and more as they wait for days in line without food or water. With the sick and dead pouring from the village, there is no way for villagers to minimize the spread of disease, or properly dispose of the bodies. The situation seems to be catastrophe waiting to happen; as the rain increases so does the likelihood of a cholera outbreak and the spread of other diseases.

The only positive news of late is that the government has assessed the plants he uses (rumoured to be from the same trees used to make poison darts) and determined that it is completely safe for human ingestion. Whether or not it is actually working, is yet to be confirmed.

Because of the backlog of people waiting, the pastor has now appealed to the public to stop travelling to see him as he provides the cure to the 24,000 currently waiting in line.  Given the rate that people are headed to the village, I doubt it will slow down anytime soon.

I will save my personal opinions for another time, as this is quite a sensitive issue for my office. What I can say is that this is clearly a sign that people are in desperation of basic health care in this country. So much that they are willing to travel thousands of miles for a bit hope that they will be cured.

If anything, lets hope that this is a chance for the government to reach the most vulnerable of the population and fulfil some basic health serviceswhile people wait in the village.

Some more information:

I will keep you posted on the progress.

*Pole sana. Kwa wale wanatafuta kupata Loliondo, sina taarifa.*