Despite risks, faith endures in traditional Afghan cures

Afghan shaman

When Hajji Jarnail, 60, decided to turn to traditional methods to cure a long-term illness, his health took a turn for the worse.

Conventional medical treatment had failed to help, so an elderly friend advised him to cover himself in the skin of a freshly-slaughtered cow. Soon he found himself covered in spots, which he says nearly killed him, and he had to seek help from a qualified physician.

“When they took me to the doctor, he wouldn’t treat me,” said Jarnail, a resident of the Mandozai district of Khost region in southeast Afghanistan. “He said I wouldn’t recover. He was very angry, but after my relatives pleaded with him, he gave me medicines.”

Dr Jalal Faiz, the skin specialist currently treating Jarnail, said the animal-hide “cure” was highly dangerous.

“In fact, Jarnail was committing suicide, and it’s a good thing they brought him to me. Spots had emerged on his body, which prepare the ground for infections to be transferred to the blood. His treatment will take a long time.”