Health care consists of biomedical treatment, traditional practices (often closely bound to traditional religion), and Islamic medicine in various combinations that depend on belief, cost, proximity, and the advice of kin and neighbors.
Biomedical health care facilities are provided through the national government and Christian missions as well as by private physicians. There are health centers, maternal child health centers (offering prenatal, childbirth, well-baby, and under-five care), and private, general, and central hospitals. In rural health centers, nurses often play a direct role in diagnosis and treatment, and perform surgical operations. Pharmacists are an important source of biomedical advice. Vendors of prescription medicines also give advice to patients and their families, although their understanding of disease may differ from that of physicians and pharmacists.
Traditional practitioners include herbalists, bone setters, diviners, and ritual specialists who may supplicate spirits or ancestors. These practitioners adapt to changing conditions by incorporating new ideas and medicines into their practices. There has been a tendency toward the predominance of herbalists and individual treatment and away from the use of ritual specialists and community-wide treatments. Many practitioners specialize in the treatment of particular afflictions. Patients readily consult practitioners from different cultural groups.
The Islamic medical system is derived from Arabic and Greco-Roman sources. These medical practitioners not only are important sources of treatment for northern Muslims but also are popular among other peoples. Many non-Muslims seek protection from evil by displaying symbols of Islamic blessings in their houses.