Naturopathic Practitioner Aids A New Cause

March 28, 2009 Africa No Comments

by Ana Maria Trujillo | The New Mexican | 3/28/2009

For the past several years, Dr. Andrew Lustig, a Naturopathic practitioner from Santa Fe, has been traveling to countries where people need medical care. But this year he found another cause — fighting for the rights of young Kenyan women.

During his travels, he came across two people — Hellen Nkuraiya and Salaton Ole Ntutu — who were working toward ending forced marriages and female genital mutilation.

“What’s very unique about these people is they are saving young girls, who are as young as 8 years old and up to their teens, from forced marriages and forced circumcisions,” Lustig explained. He said that while he respects tradition, he also respects that two people from the Masai tribe are looking to offer young girls, through education, a choice.

Nkuraiya wanted to help because of personal experience.

“Hellen was a child who was forced to marry,” Lustig said. He noted that oftentimes young girls are forced to marry a much older man in exchange for some good that could benefit her family — such as a cow for the father, Lustig said.

“In order to marry, these girls must be circumcised, a process that sometimes kills them because they bleed to death,” he said. “There are no anesthetics, so it’s also very painful.”

This type of mutilation leads to lifelong problems for the women, including increased risk for contracting infections, Lustig said, especially during childbirth.

And if their husbands die or cast them off, they are not allowed to remarry, Lustig said. “Young girls at 12 could be life-long widows.”

Nkuraiya and Ntutu’s option is education. They enroll the girls in school so they can aspire to a career with the help of an organization called Asante Africa Foundation.

“They are putting them in school and showing them other ways of living,” Lustig said.

Nkuraiya and Ntutu have helped about 40 women.

“Through the process of formal education, these girls make different decisions for themselves,” Lustig said.

What’s very unique about these people is they are saving young girls, who are as young as 8 years old and up to their teens, from forced marriages and forced circumcisions,” Lustig explained.

In addition to finding a new cause to support, Lustig offered free treatment to approximately 250 people. This trip was different than his other trips to places like Peru and Nepal, because there is such a higher concentration of HIV and AIDS in Kenya, he said.

“We worked with AIDS and HIV patients, who were supplied with both herbal and nutritional supplementation,” Lustig said.  He also treated the side effects of the anti-retroviral drugs that are given to patients with HIV and AIDS by the government. “I met very few people who did not have HIV-1, HIV-2 or AIDS.”

“The ARVs have a whole host of side effects,” Lustig explained. “Often times we are helping them with those side effects: headaches, dizziness, nausea, pains in their legs and other things.”

The patients received a formula made from fermented cabbage, garlic, olive oil, turmeric and other ingredients that can help patients stay at a point “where AIDS and HIV are not necessarily a death sentence,” Lustig said.

He hand carried some 7000 pills, powders and tinctures into Africa from America, and cross-crossed the country, visiting different villages and clinics.He gave out free antiviral solutions, antibacterial formulas and neutraceuticals — many of which were donated by Heel Inc., Integrative Therapeutics and Trace Research, or purchased by Lustig himself.

“These companies are always very generous and they supply me with thousands of dollars worth of medicine to bring,” Lustig said.

As an aside, Lustig was in Kenya during the Obama inauguration ceremonies in America, and noticed an amazing contrast of technology. “We listened to the inauguration live on a villager’s cell phone radio in a mud hut with other tribesman…there was no electricity or running water, but there I was listening to this very important event thousands of miles away, live.” At one point, Lustig was with a tribesman who carried a cell phone in one hand and a spear in the other.

Lustig works as both a Naturopathic practitioner and an emergency medical technician in Santa Fe. For more information on donating to Nkuraiya and Ntutu’s mission to offer these young girls a choice.

Andrew in Africa

Andrew in Africa