Uganda’s 20 worst medical lies

Ugandans have been subjected to numerous lies concerning health over the decades. Here are twenty of the most bizarre medical lies since independence, in ascending order of seriousness.

20. Plucking a woman’s beard makes you rich:
This is an ages-old traditional belief in some communities. The only mild danger is if the plucking damages the dermis and becomes sceptic.

19: There is an STD that shaves off your hair in hours:
This rumour was started by His Excellency, President Idi Amin Dada in the 1970s. It was intended to deter people from reckless sex but could possibly cause stress

18. Big fleas came from Saudi Arabia:
During the Economic War of the 1970s, soap became a luxury with some people failing to wash clothes and even their bodies. The dirt led to the high multiplication vermin like fleas. A variety of fat fleas multiplied very fast and because Islam was becoming popular with more Ugandan making the Mecca pilgrimage, a rumour started that the fat flees came from Saudi Arabia. The fat fleas had a very oaiful bite and would also cause a rash leading to scratching. The rash was called ‘simama nikwambie’ (halt and I tell you) as the victim would postpone whatever they were doing to scratch. Because more women than previously were now going making the Hijja, it was said they were the ones bringing the fat fleas. So the fleas were nicknamed ‘Hajjatti’. The fat fleas are no longer plentiful so the gravity of the lie is almost nil.

17. Blue paint cures measles, mumps:
For many years before and after independence, and even now in some remote areas, children who got measles and mumps were painted with ‘bululu’, a laundry-whitening tablet. While it ‘bululu’ was wrongly believed to cure these highly infectious diseases, its real value was in marking isolating the infected kid by keeping it from playing with the healthy ones.

16. Mother’s breasts helps find a drowned body:
When someone drowned their mother (or her successor if she was deceased) is taken to the lake and made to ‘suckle’ the lake. It is and in some fishing communities still is, believed that the drowned body would be attracted to come and breastfeed, and the body emerges. This strenuous and stressful exercise just serves to keep people around to guard the bereaved woman and the search party not to abandon the mission. After the body has absorbed enough water will float, and the breasts are though to have worked.

15. ‘Majini’ sometimes kill youth who drink Waragi:
This belief was entrenched by the traditional healers like a carpenter who thinks every problem is solved using a hammer. In reality, the liberalization of the beverages industry saw many people packing the national gin, Waragi, but with no industry standards. Some of the products, them mostly sold in sachests, were chemically dangerous and the affected youth who drank them manifested symptoms of madness before dying. Parents and relatives would resort to traditional healers who always diagnosed ‘majini’ (evil spirits) and proceeded to conduct rituals which involved slaughter animals to spill blood. The lie is only useful as far as it dissuades youth from drinking hard liquor.

14. Ear-piercing, circumcision prevents child ritual murders:
To protect your child from being captured and murdered by ritual killers, you just have to have them under the watch of a responsible adult all the time. But a rumour persists that circumcising the boys and piercing the girls’ ears dissuades the ritual killers as they only ‘sacrifice’ unscarred children. While circumcision is good and earl piercing enhances the beauty, there is no ‘proof’ it stops a criminal who is after money to sell the victims to the ritualists.

13. Kitagata Hot springs water cures all illnesses:
In times of desperation, people tend to go to the hot springs and bather where the water isn’t so hot. AT times in the past, multitudes would bather close to one another thereby enhancing infection with communicable diseases.

12. Mariandina cures Aids
In the early years of the HIV/Aids epidemic, an authentic but controversial medical professor patented a formula called Mariandina – which really was supplemented in tablet form. While Mariandina did not cure Aids as touted, it provided relief and helped victims fight opportunistic infections.

11. Standing can prevent pregnancy
Many young teenagers used to be, and some still are misled by predators that having sex while standing prevents conception.

10. Sembabule soil cures HIV/Aids
Late 1989, a depressed old woman in the Masaka district, Yowanina Nanyonga,  claimed to have had an apparition and got instructions to cure all people afflicted with the disease. Because Aids was then a sure death sentence, desperate people flocked to her home where she dispensed soil from her compound. Soon a big pit had been dug as strong volunteers scooped the soil. Thousands of Kampala’s elite and ordinary people continued flocking to Nanyonga’s home until the Ministry of Health said ‘enough is enough’ and shut down her show as it was endangering peoples health because of crowding in absence of sanitation facilities.

9. Shea butter makes you bulletproof
Self-styled prophet Alice Lakwena misled thousands of Acholi men that if they smeared their bodies with a shea butter concoction they would become bulletproof, so they recklessly attacked the government soldiers without bothering to take cover, and many were mowed down by bullets. Those who believed Lakwena’s lies included a professor of Mathematics and Physics, Isaac Newto Ojok. Very dangerous than, the lie no longer obtains.

8. Early post-natal sex protects the new baby
Some cultures prescribe sex soon after birth as an away of safeguarding the newborn. Many women get problems because of the quick resumption of sex.

7. Killing an Albino makes you rich
This was a much bigger problem in Tanzania but even in Uganda now and then albinos are targeted by ritual killers

6. Incest makes you rich
In pursuit of easy money, many are advised by witchdoctors to sleep with their young daughters. Many thought such stories were impossible concoctions until a smart young lady who had attended elite schools denounced her wealth fathers of having slept with her for several years until she finished high school. The man was charged, found guilty and convicted

5. Sex with a virgin cures HIV/Aids
This malicious claim is not based in any culture as Aids was not known before the eighties. In some areas, it caused the rape of young girls by infected men

4. Killing an innocent child makes you rich
In pursuit of easy money, some people are persuaded by witchdoctors to ‘sacrifice’ a child.

3. Using a safety belt increases chances of death in case the car crashes
Some bizarre reasoning used to convince people not to use safety belts in the car.

2. Drinking alcohol kills coronavirus
In reality, the amount of alcohol that would kill the coronavirus in your body would kill you long before affecting the virus

1. The is a cure for COVID-19 in Uganda
The public has been warned that some opportunists may start peddling cures for Coronavirus yet none exists, and this would mislead people from taking the necessary precautions to prevent transmission of the disease

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