The Snake in the Stomach: Child Diarrhea in Central Mozambique


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Research on diarrhea in early childhood in Manica Province, Mozambique, showed that traditional healers conceptualize a complex array of illnesses that have diarrhea as a symptom. They did not have a concept of dehydration, although depressed fontanelle was recognized as evidence of serious illness. On the other hand, diarrhea was linked to symptoms of dehydration through the concept of nyoka, a guardian of bodily purity thought to dwell in all people and to cause diarrhea and other symptoms in reaction to the entry of contaminants into the body. Nyoka appears to be symbolic of issues related to respect for the human body and connects to concepts of pollution and contamination found elsewhere in East Africa.