Alternative medicine

“A disease like any other” Uses and perspectives of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine in the context of COVID-19 within the Congolese community in Belgium

This article was originally published here

J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2022 Apr 7;18(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s13002-022-00530-y.


BACKGROUND: As a hard-hit region during the COVID-19 pandemic, Belgium has experienced the highest death rate among people of sub-Saharan African descent, compared to any other group living in the country. After migration, people often retain traditional perceptions and habits regarding health and health care, resulting in a high prevalence of the use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine among different migrant communities in rural areas. northern urbanites. Although it is the largest community of sub-Saharan African origin in Belgium, little is known about the ethnobotanical practices of the Belgian Congolese community. We therefore conducted an exploratory study on the use of medicinal plants in the context of COVID-19 and the perceptions of this new disease among members of the Congolese community in Belgium.

Methods: We conducted 16 semi-structured in-depth interviews with people of Congolese origin currently living in Belgium. Participants were selected using purposive sampling. The use of medicinal plants in the context of COVID-19 has been registered through a free list. Data on stories, ideas and perceptions about the origin, cause/etiology and global measures against COVID-19 (including vaccination) were collected. The interview transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Four general themes emerged from our data. First, participants perceived the portrayal of the severity of COVID-19 by the Belgian media and government – ​​and by extension by all government agencies in the global north – as exaggerated. As a result, traditional and complementary treatments have been considered feasible options for treating the symptoms of the disease. Fifteen forms of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine have been documented, thirteen of which were herbal. Participants appear to retreat to their Congolese identity and traditional knowledge in the search for coping strategies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, postcolonial institutional distrust seems to lead not only to distrust of official messages about the COVID-19 pandemic but also to feelings of vaccine reluctance.

CONCLUSION: In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, our study participants retreated to, reshaped and adapted traditional and culture-related knowledge. This study suggests that the fragile and sensitive relationship between sub-Saharan African migrant groups and other social/ethnic groups in Belgium may play a role in their susceptibility to health-threatening situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

PMID:35392948 | DO I:10.1186/s13002-022-00530-y