African Sleeping Sickness Shrouded in Superstition

Martin Zoutane Daba, Yahoo! News, June 10, 2012

A frail 65-year-old woman sitting under the mango trees in a rural village in Chad suffers from a tropical disease that eats into the brain, and the locals blame on witchcraft.

“I’ve been suffering for more than two months now. I have headaches, fever, and I just feel very tired,” said Lea Sadene, who has just been tested and diagnosed.

She has Human African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness, which is transmitted by tsetse flies found in 36 sub-Saharan African countries.

Sadene is in the first phase of the often fatal illness. Without treatment in four months to a year, “the parasite penetrates into the brain, causing serious neurological symptoms, until death,” said Doctor Benedict Blaynay, head of neglected tropical diseases at French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.

“The symptoms can cause a change in personality, mental deterioration, leading to a long sleep or coma,” which gives the illness its name, he said.

Chadian health officials say around 3,300 people were infected between 2001 and 2011 in several areas of the landlocked central African nation, one of the poorest in the world.


{snip} For the people living in Chad’s rural communities, the strange symptoms of sleeping sickness have long been shrouded in superstition about witchcraft and demonic possession.

“Before we didn’t know that it was the disease that was killing people. People died like flies, they blamed witches,” said Alngar Legode, a village mother trying to comfort her eight-month child still crying after being pricked for the blood test for the disease.

“Witchcraft is seen as a real phenomenon in traditional societies,” said sociologist Serferbe Charlot. “They think that a man or a woman suspected of witchcraft is eating away at a person’s soul.”

In the advanced stages of the disease the infected person experiences severe neurological problems.

“When this disease reaches the brain, the patient loses control of his life, he even becomes violent. That is when the villagers believe that the sick person is possessed by evil spirits,” said Charlot.

“It is up to the health specialists to prove” to the population that it is not witchcraft, he said, adding: “The fight against sleeping sickness calls for raising awareness.”


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  • “It is up to the health specialists to prove” to the population that it
    is not witchcraft, he said, adding: “The fight against sleeping sickness
    calls for raising awareness.”

    I would say that it’s up to the natives to quit thinking so primitively, but that will never happen.

    White racist scientists and doctors versus black animism and witchcraft.  Gotta side with the vibrant diversity here.

  • Is there anything that happens in these bass-ackward countries that isn’t the fault of either witchcraft or the white man?

  • This reminds me of the Cargo Cults of WWII, only the irrational correlations were drawn between the supernatural and prosperity. 

    It also reminds me of liberal white Americans who embrace the same mindset. They fail (or refuse) to see the rational correlation between ethnic prosperity and intelligence. Rather, they blame economic disparity on the ‘witchcraft’ of racism and offer voodoo socialism as the cure.

    Africans are physically sick for natural causes. Africans are economically sick for natural causes. Only when we honestly identify the correct causes and subsequent effects can viable solutions be obtained.

  • Global Minority

    And they bring this with them to America. This will become our burdern as always.

  • IstvanIN

    Why do we bother with these creatures, why?

  • I’m pretty sure the making of popcorn in africa is “shrouded in superstition.”

  • Johnny Reb

    QUOTE:   tropical disease that eats into the brain
    I wonder how they can tell?

  • “Raising awareness” is a favorite catch phrase of the Left. But by all means, raise awareness of the Tsetse fly in Chad. If folks want to go over there and help the natives, then go for it – just don’t use my tax money and make sure, while you’re at it, to also raise awareness about the problems that come with African immigration so that they won’t be brought here.

    • Mahound

      If they wanna do good they can do it over here by raising large, strong, healthy and educated families and then do some voluntairing in the spare time. Not spending all their life in some backward place helping those that hate their guts for it.

  • Tostig1933

    Serferbe Charlot should not use ‘traditional’ when he/she means ‘primative’. Why cannot people speak honestly.

  • At the rate we are importing fresh-off-the-boat Uruks, how long will it be before we start seeing “sleeping sickness” here in the US?


    (Along with Ebola, Marburg, SARS, resistant strains of the Black Death, Polio, Smallpox, etc..)