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Smith College

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management


In Madagascar, traditional healthcare is practiced and used by those who have no other access to healthcare or who simply cannot afford it. This form of healthcare is known throughout in the form of the Ombiasa. These men and women not only have extensive knowledge on the land around them and the healing capabilities of local plants, they are also the mediums in their communities between the spirit world that guides and the human world that is in constant need of guidance. In the Ifotoka and Morafeno region in the south of Madagascar there is a powerful and well known Ombiasa named Manjovala who deals mostly with spiritual ailments, but is also capable of dealing with physical ailments such as colds and bruises. The Ombiasa additionally serves as the go-to man for daily-life issues that arise such as romantic problems, bad fortune, etc. There are several components to the Ombiasa’s practice: medicinal plants, sacred objects, sacred places, and the spirit. Each one of these components plays a crucial role in the healing of his patients. After a two week study of the Ombiasa and his methods of healing, several things became clear- all of the various aspects are used together to heal a person, spiritual ailments are for the most part what people come to the Ombiasa for, and that what the Ombiasa does is more than just heal. In Morafeno and Ifotoka, he is the high priest, the leader of the people, and the head of a practice that transcends simple health care and is firmly rooted in a culture and a people.


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Family, Life Course, and Society | Medicine and Health Sciences



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