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Thursday, 12 January 2012



The World Health Organization (WHO) in its “Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization” as adopted by the International Health Conference in 1946 defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. From this definition, it is clear that anything contrary to this is generally regarded as ill-health.

In Nigeria today, there are basically two ways of tackling the problem of ill-health. One is through faith healing and the other is health care delivery. While the former is unorthodox, the latter is orthodox. For some, faith healing is only an alternative when health care delivery fails, while others consider it as a normal practice for the restoration of sound health. It is, therefore, the intention of this writer to investigate into the relationship between faith healing and health care delivery towards proffering a better way of managing ill-health in the Nigerian situation.


The concept ‘faith healing’ is a conglomeration of two words, faith and healing. “Faith” in this context has to do with something beyond the natural while “healing” refers to a total restoration of health. Thus, faith healing refers to the healing that occurs supernaturally as a result of prayer or divine intervention rather than the use of medicines or the involvement of physicians.
Health care delivery is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, illnesses, injuries and other physical and mental impairments in humans, towards a holistic restoration of health. It includes all the services rendered in the primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems.


A pertinent question in this discourse is on the authenticity of faith healing, bearing in mind the various aberrations and abuses observed in our faith healing clinics. Yet, it is important to note that faith healing has biblical authenticity evident in the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT). In the OT we recall the story of Naaman the leper and his miraculous healing in the River Jordan (cf. 2 Kings 5). In the NT, we recall the healing of the woman who had suffered haemorrhage for 12 years (Mk. 5:26-27), the healing of the Blind Bartimaeus (Mk. 10:46-52), the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk. 1:29-31), etc. Jesus also gave his followers the authority to heal the sick (Mt. 10:8).

From this biblical perspective, faith healing became a characteristic of the Church Jesus founded. The healing was not limited to physical healing but extended to spiritual healing through the effective use of the Word and Sacraments. Thus; the Catholic Church recognizes faith healing among her faithful and this healing ministry must be exercised according to the examples of Christ in strict adherence to the Church’s Magisterium. For Catholics, faith healing is the result of intercessory prayer to God through the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Saints, some of whom are specially known for miraculous healing such as Saints Philomena, Jude, etc, or visit to a Holy shrine.


Unlike the Western world where health care delivery is advanced, Nigeria as a developing country is still struggling to provide adequate health care delivery to the privileged few. The situation of health care delivery in Nigeria is not just pitiable but regrettable and unfortunate. 

Prof. Peter Nwagwu in an address at the Convention of Nigerian Professionals in Diaspora at Paris entitled “Health Care Delivery in Nigeria: Contributions of Nigerians in Diaspora” quickly pointed out two basic problems of health care delivery in Nigeria: “the problem of quality of health care delivery and the problem of accessibility”.

These two basic problems have contributed to the failed state of health care delivery in Nigeria. This failure is as a result of its inefficiency in handling some of its responsibilities. Some of the signs of this failure include: the inadequacy of health care facilities and personnel, bad policies and operating procedures, high cost of service, unavailability of essential drugs, lack of professional services, the location of the health care facilities, high rate of infant and maternal mortality, poor antenatal and post-natal care, incessant strike actions by medical personnel, poor remuneration, proliferation of quack medical personnel and centres, etc.


Having observed the failed state of health care delivery in Nigeria, one would possibly see the reason behind the mad rush for faith healing. Since the average Nigerian cannot easily get access to quality health care delivery, the tendency is to look for cheaper and available alternatives. Thus, faith healing becomes an alternative to health care delivery. Regrettably, sometimes it is sought and paid for.
It is sad to observe that in the quest for faith healing, many Nigerians have fallen into the wicked hands of some dubious people who take advantage of their plight to extort money and other valuables from them all in the name of praying for them. Some have been asked to pay heavily, others asked to do things they would not have ordinarily done all to no avail. Some fake pastors and prophets have emerged with their healing centres and clinics to increase the plight of the people. Worse still, our people are ignorant of all these and still fall prey. It is very paradoxical to note that many Nigerians loose faith while seeking for faith healing.


In order to control this ugly trend of indiscriminate search for faith healing, people should be enlightened on how to take good care of their health and how to make use of the available facilities in the hospitals. Some just look for faith healers once they have headache but will never go for diagnosis. The government should be faithful to her duty by providing at least primary health care. The government should also regulate the proliferation of faith clinics and healing centres because it is her duty to safeguard the lives of the people. When this is done, it will go a long way to remedy the situation.


In conclusion, the indispensability of faith healing and health care delivery cannot be over emphasized nor be relegated to the background. Both are necessary for an effective restoration of health but none should be abused. It is advised that patients visit health care centres at the suspicion of ill health and may only resort to faith healing where every orthodox means prove abortive or when the case is impossible for health care delivery to handle. They should also be very careful of the faith healers they visit to avoid falling into the hands of impostors and swindlers. However, this does not by any means denigrate the importance of prayer in every moment of our life.

Author: Uwakwe Chibuike

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