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Principal Investigator: James Suah Shilue, Platform for Dialogue and Peace


In Liberia, traditional health practitioners are often people’s first recourse and last resort for health care. While to some extent this indicates limitations on access to biomedical services and infrastructures, for many communities, regardless of the presence of these services the traditional health care sector remains a first choice for care. However, despite the global health community’s long-term recognition of the importance of traditional healers (THs) in enhancing public health coverage, in Liberia the role of THs in emergency contexts and health systems continues to be overlooked.

This study explored the extent to which local populations are utilising and relying on these healers. The research also investigated how traditional healers understand Ebola and their capacity to cope with it. Finally, the research team explored how this group of providers could help strengthen the national health services in the wake health crisis.


The research has helped develop a more nuanced understanding of alternative medicine and its public health potential, and will help serve to strengthen the Liberian national health systems in the long term. More broadly, the project explored effective and strategic health-seeking options that promote diversification, and thereby build resilience and reactivity into the public health system.

Key findings

  • The services of THs are highly used in Liberia, mostly in the rural parts where modern health facilities are a rarity. THs’ work is crucial as they are the nearest health care service providers at the grass-roots that can swiftly respond to complex health emergencies like Ebola in rural and peri-urban areas with large and underserved populations.
  • There are concerns among biomedical practitioners and government functionaries that official recognition of traditional medicine and healers may boost legitimacy. While TH’s treatments and methods are still largely untested, the number of THs (licensed and unlicensed) providing services far outstrip modern health facilities and therefore play an important role in Liberia’s health care systems.
  • The study concluded that a robust collaboration between THs and biomedical practitioners in addressing growing heath needs in Liberia could help reduce real and potential health and humanitarian crisis.

Key Outputs

A 2-day Stakeholders’ workshop was held in Monrovia (December 2015). P4DP presented the research findings to a group of Stakeholders including THs and participants from the 9 Counties where research took place, Government officials (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Internal Affairs), Bio-medical practitioners (Dogliotte Medical College, World Health Organization) Trust Africa, and wide range of actors from NGOs interested in health matters.

Latest Updates

Unearthing the antidote for a resilient public health sector in Liberia: Integrating traditional and modern medicine

Feb 2016

While hospitals were closed and Medical Doctors were running away, we were working undercover to save lives during the peak of the Ebola outbreak”. Public health and other essential sectors…


Liberia: Indigenous Health Practitioners as Community-based Allies.

Dec 2015

Building a resilient health sector remains a huge challenge facing post-war Liberia as evident by the recent outbreak of Ebola which killed at least 4800 persons.


Liberia: Indigenous Health Practitioners as Community-based Allies

Nov 2015

Building a resilient health sector remains a huge challenge facing post-war Liberia which is evident by the recent outbreak of Ebola that killed at least 4800 people. A small West…


Liberia: Traditional Healers crucial in a moribund Health Care system

Nov 2015

If you believe in the Quran, you can go in the bush and collect any leaf and recite the Quran on it and bring it, you can heal people just…



Aug 2015

Traditional healers and medicine are essential and in most cases serve as the primary sources for people living in societies, where the state is unable to provide important basic social services.



Aug 2015

P4DP Launches Study On Role of Liberia's Traditional Healers


Related News


The role of traditional healers in health crises

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