There is a very dangerous practice that has gone on for so long among mothers mostly in the rural areas and alternative medicine practitioners; abdominal scarification as a treatment for enlarged spleen. It appears a very hot substance is pressed on the stomach to 'melt' whatever they believe is responsible for the enlarged spleen. The cause of the enlarged spleen is often believed to be a disease of its own caused by accumulation of bad blood, worms or maybe evil spirit. This practice seems more common in the Southern parts of Nigeria. The Igbos call it "apa afo", "obara afo" and any such name depending on the part of Igbo land one is from. Sometimes they perform incisions on that part of the skin covering the palpable spleen, probably to make the bad blood bleed out. Take a look at many kids below 10 and living in rural areas in the aforementioned region of Nigeria and you would likely observe this in more than 50% of them. It's heartbreaking to say the least that little kids are made to go through such treatment.
Enlargement of the spleen has several causes, available research suggests the most prevalent cause in Nigeria is malaria. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) also reported high incidences of splenic enlargement in places where malaria is endemic. The safest place to diagnose the cause of your child's splenic enlargement is in a hospital. Let a doctor, preferably a paediatrician do the diagnosis and prescribe the right course of treatment. Some of the mothers who let their children go through this believe there is no treatment for it in orthodox medicine, while most of them do it out of ignorance and helplessness.
Scarification poses serious threats to a child's survival. The child's abdomen gets scalded and could get infected or some other complication may arise. The instruments used to perform the incisions could also harbour some deadly disease-causing microorganisms. So many things could go wrong, yet it's not solving the problem.
A lot really needs to be done as regards awareness and enlightenment of mothers, most especially those in the rural areas. We cannot continue to watch while children are left with scars in a treatment course that achieves little or nothing at all. With the proliferation of internet users, I hope this piece gets to someone who would help enlighten another on how wrong and inhuman abdominal scarification is. I believe these kids scream out in pain when this totally unnecessary treatment course is being done.
So many things are done wrongly. So many things we do contribute to the alarmingly high mortality rates in our country. We need to join hands and drive ignorance away; this ignorance that puts lives at risk. We need to say no abdominal scarification and all child scarifications in general. We need to put a stop to traditions and treatment courses that put lives at risk and achieve little or absolutely nothing.
Let us all join hands to stop harmful traditions.