Why do the natives of East Africa prefer mission hospitals to those of the government? Why will they often refuse the free feeding and gratuitous professional services that government institutions offer them, and go to similar institutions carried on by missions where they will have to pay for their food and medical attention? The cost may be a nominal fee, often below the cost, but they are willing to pay it. Why is it that a number of the natives will pass by even another mission hospital in order to reach the place where homoeopathy is practised?.
Many reasons may be given, but here are few of the main ones. “Is not this the place where the good medicine is”? they will often reply when asked. Another reason that has been given by white and brown and black patient is that they receive more personal attention.
As homoeopathy requires the personal questioning and examination by the doctor himself, the patient feels that he is receiving more attention than he is accustomed to at the hand of any sub-assistant surgeon [Asiatic] of native helper that tries to make a diagnosis or give a prescription. Then there is this factor of human nature to be reckoned with: what is paid for is valued more than that which is received free. Undoubtedly the results achieved with the homoeopathic remedies have had some result in drawing patients to our institution.
Homoeopathy, though unknown as such to the black people, has great opportunities in this dark continent, and it has been able to give relief to many needy people of many tribes and races. One does not have to hunt for the sick and diseased-they are everywhere. Ignorance of hygiene and the common rules of proper living, gross superstition compelling and impelling them to all kinds of injurious practices, fear on all sides rendering life an almost continual nightmare, and the great, though waning, power of the witch-doctors, all these and other factors combine to render human mortality high indeed.
Instead of writing about homoeopathy in tropical diseases, it has seemed wiser to write about homoeopathy and its work in tropical conditions. As our hospital is situated 7,500 feet above sea level, we are not living and working in true tropical conditions. We are in the tropics, being situated less than two degrees south of the equator, yet this high altitude does not favor the distinctly typical tropical diseases which are so prevalent and flourish so well in the lower and warmer areas. Having a colder atmosphere and an almost continuous cool wind, insect life is not as well favored here and we are saved somewhat of that scourge, though we have enough of them as it is.
As to the tropical diseases, some of them are rarely seen. I have met only one case of relapsing or tick fever. An occasional case of elephantiasis is seen and that always of the leg variety. Little can be said of the homoeopathic treatment, though now with my experience with Sulphur I believe that it may be of value if used for a sufficiently long time.
Two cases of what I considered black water fever were in our hospital and in both cases Phosphorus seemed to be the remedy, and both recovered. Four cases of anthrax have been under our care and two of these died, one having two areas of infection.
Yaws is occasionally seen in the acute stage, but too infrequently and for too short a period of time to really know what homoeopathy alone can do for it. It is my rule to ask all new patients if they have had yaws, and if they reply in the affirmative, then I expect a stubborn case of some kind to deal with. Arsenicum album and especially Sulphur are often thought of as possible remedies in such patients.
Trachoma has been met a number of times, usually in the early stages. I have found Sulphur to give the greatest help in such cases. A few patients afflicted with leprosy have come to us for treatment, the tubercular and anaesthetic varieties being the common kinds seen here. Different homoeopathic remedies have been tried with uncertain results. “Alepol”, the drug supplied by the British Leprosy Association, does seem to help.
Amoebic dysentery is another occasional visitor that is never welcome. Arsenicum album and Sulphur seem to give some relief. Just today I prescribed Colocynth for a case that may be amoebic, though a positive diagnosis is not been made.
Liver abscess is not a pleasant case to have about and in the native death is a common sequel. We have in the hospital at present one young man whose liver reaches down to the iliac crests; 782 ounces of purulent liver fluid were removed from the abdomen before drainage was instituted.