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Telesom Dahabshiil
Published On: Mon, Mar 2nd, 2020

Somalis turn to Dr Hyena to fight depression, mental illness

MOGADISHU (ANN) – The growls from the caged hyena reverberate through the room as Mohamed Sheikh Yakub slumps silently in a chair nearby, hoping the animal will frighten away the evil spirits he says have troubled him since his divorce.

Mohamed Sheikh Yakub, a patient suffering with mental illness, sits inside the treatment room where a hyena believed to exorcise evil spirits that cause mental illness is secured in a cage, in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia February 15, 2020. Picture taken February 15, 2020. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

The traditional treatment – rooted in the belief that hyenas can devour the ‘jinns’ or spirits widely blamed in the region for depression and mental illness – takes place in a sweltering shack in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

The Horn of Africa nation, which has suffered decades of civil war, only has three trained psychiatrists, the World Health Organization says.

In the absence of conventional therapies, many people are turning to traditional healers including Yakub’s exorcist – a spry 70-year-old called Aden Igaal who goes by the name of Dr. Hyena.

Medics at the capital’s Turkish-funded Erdogan Hospital say there is no scientific basis for the treatment. “I don’t think it can help,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Nur Abdullahi Karshe.

Psychiatric nurse Abdirahman Ali Awale, known as ‘Dr. Habeeb’, says he always encourages people to get clinical rather than traditional treatment. “I am trying to educate them to not go to the hyenas,” he said.

But patients at Dr. Hyena’s shack and their families say they have little choice given the shortage of alternatives.

Fatuma Ahmed says she took her 13-year-old daughter to Dr Hyena after giving up on other avenues.

“I took her to every hospital in Mogadishu but wasted my money. I was hopeless,” Ahmed tells Reuters. She says the treatment worked. “Thank God, she is OK.”

In the past, other healers often locked patients into rooms with unrestrained animals, Dr. Hyena says. His use of a cage means there haven’t been any injuries since he started his practice four years ago, he tells Reuters.

Patients have red thread tied around their little fingers to stop the spirits from slipping away temporarily before the hyena can deal with them properly, he says.

He got into the business after his sister was treated by traditional healer. “This inspired me to look for a hyena to heal the people.”

He found a hyena pup for sale for $1,200, nicknamed it Ali and set up shop, charging people $10 a session – still pricey in a city where a soldier receives $100 per month.

Back in the treatment shack, the hyena swings its head around and snuffles against the cage’s narrow bars. But Mohamed Sheikh Yakub shows no sign of improvement and remains listless and withdrawn.

Dr Hyena stops the session after few minutes, saying his animal has not managed to detect any sprits. Some conditions are not caused by jinns, he says. But Yakub should come back three more times, just to make sure.

Yakub’s brother, who was with him throughout the treatment, occasionally holding him up to the cage, leads him outside.

Source: (Reuters)

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About the Author

- Arraale Mohamoud Jaama Freelance Journalist and Human Rights Activist Arraale, is a 20 year experience as a professional Journalist and human rights activist Over the years, worked for the major News Papers in Somaliland as a reporter, editor and contributor. 2008 established website Araweelo News Network, he currently runs a web site based in Somaliland. who is the specializes in the investigation and reporting on issues relating to human rights, democracy, and good governance. contact: Send an SMS or MMS to + 252 63 442 5380 WhatsApp + 252 65 910 7347.

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Araweelo is an Associated Network News, The most trusted source for news & Political,investigator report,Human Rights Issues,Educations,Social and Democracy ,Latest News Horn of Africa. runs Arraale Mohamoud Jama Freelance Journalist and Human Rights Activist based in Somaliland.

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