Tanzania halts ‘miracle cure’ after 52 die

The rush for the so-called ‘wonder drug’ administered by the faith healer Ambilikile Mwasapile in northern Tanzania turned into a humanitarian crisis with deaths and injuries reported. Photo/FILE

The pilgrimage to Loliondo for the alleged “miracle cure” was stopped on Sunday as it emerged 52 people had died awaiting treatment.

This came amid reports of a humanitarian crisis as thousands of sick people swamped the village for a herbal concoction, mugariga, administered by the Rev Ambilikile Mwasapile. It is claimed to cure all ailments.

“There will be no more trips to Samunge village (in Loliondo area) until people who are currently there have been served and left the area,” Ngorongoro district commissioner Elias Wawa Lalie said.

Medical experts have also expressed concerns about the potency and efficacy of the herbal treatment, although this has not stopped the flow of patients into Loliondo.

The Rev Mwasapile, 76, had on Saturday warned of a crisis as thousands mobbed his compound for treatment. (READ: Loliondo pilgrimage marred by deaths and accidents)

The remote village lacks basic amenities such as toilets, hotels and lodgings to cater for the large number of people streaming in.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that about 24,000 sick people and their relatives were queuing to see the cleric-turned-traditional healer.

Journalists at the weekend counted a convoy of up to 4,000 vehicles snaking into the village. About 100 vehicles had broken down on the rough road to the rugged hills overlooking Lake Natron where the old man has set up his “clinic”.

The cleric said in a two-page statement on Saturday as he pleaded with the authorities to stop the traffic for at least a week to clear the jam: “This is a pathetic situation and something should be done to stem the crisis.”

He added: “From today (March 26th) those intending to seek my services should wait until after April 1st when those in the queue should have been cleared.”

The retired pastor also warned that patients in hospital should not be rushed to him, especially those in critical condition.

On Sunday, government officials in Arusha were not categorical on how they would implement the directive amid reports thousands of people were stranded in the town awaiting transport to Loliondo.

The Rev Mwasapile wanted each vehicle or helicopter to be surcharged Sh5,000 and Sh150,000 respectively by the Ngorongoro District Council.

He also proposed the upgrading of the road leading to the area, construction of toilets and proper management of the long queues.

“We don’t have any statement to make. We concur with what Rev Mwasapile had suggested and we will ensure there is an orderly transiting to him,” Arusha regional commissioner Isidore Shirima said.

Reporters on the ground said on Sunday people were still flooding the village for the “miracle” cure.

Reports about the Rev Mwasapile first trickled into Arusha in September last year, initially as an HIV/Aids cure but were largely ignored as country was in the peak of election campaigns.