Nigeria is made up of at least 250 linguistic groups (which some describe as ethnic groups), of which 3 are major groups comprising over 60% of the total population. Although all of these groups share common major macro-culture and macro-traditions, each evolved its own micro-culture and micro-traditions in response to prevailing environmental circumstances.
Traditional practices in Nigeria can have both positive and negative impacts on health. On the one hand, traditional practices such as herbal medicine and traditional healing practices have been used for centuries to treat various ailments and promote overall health and well-being. However, some traditional practices can also have harmful effects on health, particularly for women and girls.
One of the most harmful traditional practices in Nigeria is female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision. FGM is a procedure that involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. FGM has been linked to numerous health complications, including pain, bleeding, infections, and long-term psychological effects.
Other harmful traditional practices in Nigeria include child marriage, widowhood practices, and traditional birth practices, which can lead to maternal and infant mortality. These practices can also lead to other health complications such as fistula, obstructed labor, and sexually transmitted infections.
However, it is important to note that not all traditional practices in Nigeria are harmful to health. Many traditional practices, such as the use of medicinal plants, can have positive health effects and are an important part of cultural heritage.
Traditional and Cultural Practices in Nigeria that are Public health Disasters
- Breast Ironing
This painful procedure involves using heated objects such as stones, iron, or bricks to pound and flatten the chest of young girls approaching puberty to mask the protrusion of the breasts. This medieval practice, which is native to Cameroon and border communities in Nigeria is a harmful practice that is of public health concern, Around 4 million women around the world are affected by this practice according to the United Nations.
- Restricted Force Feeding.
“Akamu” otherwise known as pap is a staple food in most homes in Nigeria and West Africa. This semi-solid food is usually made from corn or millet and introduced to babies as they approach weaning. However, some of these children reject this alternative and most times refuse to eat.
To solve this problem many parents have resorted to inverted force-feeding a violent and deadly feeding practice for a solution.
Inverted feeding involves 3 steps
Step 1: Inverting and restricting the child between the legs
Step 2: Closing the nostrils which forces the child to cry and breathe through the mouth
Step 3: Forcing food through the mouth which compels the child to swallow the pap involuntarily as he/she gasps for air.
This procedure puts the child under immense stress and is capable of choking the child to death. In addition, this practice increases the risk of the development of Pneumonia and can also significantly affect the development of the child.
- Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
According to the World health organization (WHO), Female genital mutilation (FGM) are intentional procedures that alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. This practice of female circumcision is prevalent in southern Nigeria and is carried out mainly during festivities that mark the passage of young girls into adulthood, the procedure is carried out using un-sterilized blades and instruments that severe the clitoris or other parts of the vagina. Globally, around 132 million girls and women are affected.
- Child Marriage.
The practice of giving out female children immediately after they attain menarche (start monthly menstrual circle) is a huge public health challenge, especially in Northern Nigeria. This is because the pelvis of many of these girls is not ripe for the challenges of marriage and childbearing. Many of these children end up with Vesico Vigina Fistulas (VVF) which results in their being divorced or abandoned by the very men who took away their innocence.
Available data show that Nigeria has the highest prevalence rate of VVF in the world, with 400,000 to 800,000 women living with the condition. Annually over 20,000 new cases are recorded and 90 percent of these remain untreated. SEE: Importance Of Waist Beads In Love Making
- Drinking Water Used in Bathing or Cleaning a Corpse.
The human body dead or alive is a huge reservoir of microorganisms, dead bodies from morgues contain even deadlier organisms due to the nature of the environment and contamination from other decomposing bodies.
The practice of drinking water used in bathing a corpse to prove innocence is a public health calamity that has been preserved in South-Eastern Nigeria for centuries.
Many of those killed by drinking this water died as a result of the disease-causing organisms present in the water and not because they were guilty of killing the deceased yet despite advances in civilization these practice has remained.
How To Support The Fight Against Harmful Traditional Practices In Nigeria
Harmful traditional practices (HTPs) are cultural or traditional practices that can cause physical, emotional, or psychological harm to individuals, particularly women, and girls. Here are some ways to support the fight against harmful traditional practices in Nigeria:
- Education: Education is key in the fight against HTPs. Raising awareness about the harmful effects of these practices can help change attitudes and beliefs. Educate yourself and others about the dangers of HTPs and their impact on individuals, families, and communities.
- Advocacy: Advocacy involves speaking up and taking action to influence decision-makers and public opinion. Join advocacy groups and work to influence policy change at the local, national, and international levels.
- Empowerment: Empowering women and girls can help them make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Support organizations that provide education and resources to women and girls, including access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunities.
- Community mobilization: Community mobilization involves engaging with community leaders, religious leaders, and other influential individuals to raise awareness about HTPs and encourage change. Work with local organizations to organize community events and mobilize support for the elimination of HTPs.
- Legal action: Legal action can be taken against those who perpetrate harmful traditional practices. Support legal organizations that are working to enforce laws against HTPs and provide legal assistance to victims.
- Collaboration: Collaboration among stakeholders, including government agencies, NGOs, civil society organizations, and community members, is essential in the fight against HTPs. Work to build partnerships and collaborations that promote the elimination of HTPs.
In summary, supporting the fight against harmful traditional practices in Nigeria involves education, advocacy, empowerment, community mobilization, legal action, and collaboration among stakeholders. By working together, we can help to eliminate these practices and create a safer and healthier future for all.
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