Dealing with uncertainty and the search for a remedy: malaria and remedies among Beninese migrants in a Nigerian community
Takashi Tamai (University of Tokyo)
Paper short abstract:
This study is an ethnographic analysis of Beninese migrants living in Makoko, one of the largest slums in Lagos, Nigeria, to explore how they experience and deal with uncertainty in their search for a remedy for malaria.
Paper long abstract:
One of the features of biomedical intervention in contemporary African societies is seemingly to provide healthcare access to even the most marginalized places to cure people from affliction, anxiety and suffering; but it also increases uncertainty in people's everyday lives, which is increasingly experienced in different ways by individuals and communities. This study approaches this latter feature through an ethnographic analysis of the Beninese migrants called Egun living in Makoko, one of the largest slums in Lagos, Nigeria, to explore how they experience and deal with uncertainty in their search for a malaria remedy. Malaria is perceived among Egun people as a major, inescapable, and "everyday" illness, despite the great efforts of the Ministry of Health and NGOs to promote better healthcare access in Makoko. People are reticent to use medical facilities outside of Makoko because of uncertainty derived from differences in language and ethnicity, and changes in healthcare, medical quality, and personal relationships with medical staff. On the other hand, there has been a greater willingness to use hospitals operated by Egun people inside Makoko, and people have been returning to their hometowns in Benin in search of remedies despite the journeys' great costs in terms of both time and money. This study suggests that their flow back to their hometowns, which relies on kinship ties, may ensure healthcare access; yet at the same time, it forecloses certain therapeutic choices by maintaining attachment only to hometown medicine, which does not always give people their desired remedy.