Treating Diseases in Mareb: Cauterization Is Still On [Archives:1997/48/Health]

December 1 1997

Hussein Saeed Al-Zayidy, Mareb.
Before the September Revolution of 1962, the people of Yemen used a lot of local skills to treat their illnesses. Most prevalent among these were pendants which carry religious scripts, cautery, herbs, and other forms of traditional medicine bordering on witchcraft. In most of the country, these have now given way to modern medicine. In some parts of the country, however, the old ways persist. Marib is one of these places. Cautery is still very much used by the people of Mareb as a major cure for certain ailments. Although cautery is mainly used in the rural areas of Mareb, some townsfolk also resort to this age-old procedure. This is more attributed to the lack of modern health care facilities than it is to blind adherence to tradition and the old ways of the forebears. It is noticed that people living in remote areas often resort to cautery and several other traditional cures because of their inability to get to the nearest health center or clinic, which can be several hours’ drive away. The fact that medicines are usually quite expensive also leads many poor people to seek the help of local herbalists and other traditional healers. Even people with malaria, which is spreading because of the recent floods and the lake behind the Mareb dam, resort to cautery in the mistaken belief that it will cure them. More than 460 people most of whom were children and pregnant women died of malaria last year. Malaria-infected children in particular endure a lot of pain when cauterized. “We treat a lot of illnesses,” says Naji Saleh bin Ali – a famous cauterist in Mareb, “including malaria, jaundice, pneumonia, and many others.” Naji, 75, uses a hot metal bar to cauterize special spots in the human body, according to the type of illness. “A jaundiced person, for example, is cauterized on the upper most vertebrae, the forehead, the back of the right hand, and the back of the left foot,” said Naji expertly. As for pneumonia, the “lower part of the left breast is cauterized.” What about malaria? Is it possible to cure it with cautery, at this day and age?! our region becomes infected with malaria, at one time or another in their lives.” Naji’s little village had actually witnessed the recent death of 73 people because of malaria. “Folks with malaria go to the hospital, spend their money on a whole load of pills and injections which are often not effective, and do not cure the patients. I know a man who had to sell all his assets to treat his family, but to no avail. Thus, many people come back to me for real treatment.” Well, one may or may not agree with that. But cauterization and other outdated methods of “healing” are still widely practiced in Mareb and other remote areas in Yemen.