Insights into Benin traditional methods of disease prevention.

Author:Idehen, C.O.

The purpose of this paper was to examine the Benin traditional and cultural methods of disease prevention. The article considered the role of taboos, traditional medicine and disease prevention strategies by the people of Benin and specifically identified personal health promotion, environmental sanitation, oral hygiene, wrestling combats and appeasement as some of the methods used to prevent the incidence of disease.


Health can be defined in different ways based on individual perception or understanding of the concept of health. In other words, health is a relative concept that has no clear definition. However, there is the informed consensus among the Benin that health means "the possession of a purified or clean mind in an active body capable of promoting peaceful living and in complete harmony with oneself, neighbors and the community in which we live", whereas, sickness or ill-health means "a violation of certain taboos or offending some invisible force, i.e. gods or deities, capable of upsetting peace of the mind and the body", (Amadasun, 1987).

Similarly, it is also believed by the people of Benin that wicked neighbors, witchcraft and violation of taboos are responsible for disease causation. These beliefs by the people are not different from beliefs that exist in the Lafia community in Nigeria, where there tends to be an attachment of diseases to supernatural forces, (Okon, 1992). Indeed, the people of Benin believe in the so called " evil eye" and ascribe causes of disease to bewitchments from parents, friends and relations. Thus it is appropriate to say that health educators in Nigeria and in other countries are making efforts to educate the people on the scientific causes of diseases, but a lot is still desired of them.

Geographically, the people of Benin are found in Edo State, Nigeria and presently occupy the south-south geo-political zone of the country; many others reside in the sub-urban and rural areas of Edo State (Benin City is the capita). The climatic condition is humid and eighty five percent (85%) of the population are small farmers, and other members of the community include craftsmen (2%), traders (10%), musicians (2%) and civil servants (1%). The predominant religion is animism; however there are Christians and Moslems, but few in number whereas all theoretically owe allegiance to the Oba, the traditional ruler of the Kingdom of Benin. And in this construct, people are very religious and therefore subscribe to worship with faith in many gods and goddesses which prompt people to think every disease is the product of the handwork of wicked neighbors. Thus the gods and goddesses such as: "Osonobua" or "Osa" the supreme god, "Olokun"...

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