Background: The use of traditional eye health practices is wide spread in Africa (Uganda inclusive), Asia
and Latin America. Traditional medicine in Africa remains largely an unexplored area, which could be
exploited positively in the provision of primary eye care.
Objective: To determine the use of traditional eye health practices in Atyak sub-county, Nebbi district.
It specifically determined the prevalence of use of traditional eye health practices, the reasons why people
use them and the remedies used.
Materials and methods: Quantitative and qualitative studies were conducted in a rural setting in Atyak subcounty,
Nebbi district in August and September 2002. In the quantitative study, 824 heads of households
from 42 villages selected by multistage cluster sampling method were orally interviewed and their
responses recorded onto pre-tested questionnaires. The data was entered and analyzed using EPIINFO
version 6.02. In the qualitative study, a non-probability purposive sampling method was used to select key
informants and focus group discussions. Fourteen traditional healers and 19 other key informants were
interviewed. Six focus group discussions were held to collect information from the community. Validity
was increased by triangulation of results from the different sources.
Results: There was wide spread use of traditional eye medicine in Atyak sub-county. It was established that
44.2% of the interviewed heads of households used some form of traditional eye health practices. False
beliefs about causation and cure of eye diseases predisposed the community to use of potentially harmful
eye practices. Other reasons for use of traditional medication were their ready availability, cheapness,
influence of social groups, trust and confidence in traditional healers and presumed failure of modern
medicine to cure eye diseases. The main stay of traditional form of remedy used was plant extracts. Other
forms used were rituals, human saliva, breast milk, soil, steam baths, surgery and animal products.
Conclusions: A significant proportion of the population in Atyak sub-county used traditional eye medicine.
While myths and misconceptions about causation and cure of eye diseases played a major role in the choice
of the method of treatment used, the level of education attained seemed not to significantly influence the
choice. Medicinal herbs were the main source of traditional medicine used. Most traditional remedies used
were potentially harmful to the eye and vision.
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