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Table 3 Summary of local names of newborn illnesses, their perceived causes, symptoms, and mode of management in Debre Libanos District, North Shoa, Oromia regional state, Ethiopia, 2019

From: Exploration of facilitators of and barriers to the community-based service utilization for newborn possible serious bacterial infection management in Debre Libanos District, Ethiopia: descriptive qualitative study

Newborn illness



Treatment options

Sun or hot burn [locally called mitch]

From exposure to day time sunlight, [qeter time from 10 AM-5 PM], or immediate wearing of cloth stayed on sunlight and contact the care givers body immediately after staying around the fire or on sunlight.

Anyone or combination of symptoms: feeling hot, unable to breastfeed, vomiting, cough, irritability, body weakness, unconscious, skin rash, diarrhea, difficulty, or fast breathing.

First treatment option: Traditional medications prepared from the leaf of local herbs like demakesse (Ocimum lamiifolium), baharzaf (Eucalyptus globulus), kebericho (Echinops kebericho) and tunjit (Otostegia fruticosa).

Demakesse’ is applied on the external body; make him/her to drink by punching and diluting with water or steaming with boiled water or by smoking on the fire. Similarly, the others are steamed. If not improved taken to the health facility.

Body dislocation or fracture [kichitat]

Newborn illness denoted to body dislocation or fracture from poor newborn handling. During this time they perceptive that lungs, heart, and intestine of the newborn dislocated or their neck or shoulder might be fractured.

Any one or combination of symptoms: irritability, vomiting, unable to breastfeed, groaning, change in diarrhea, fast breathing, feeling hot, and cough.

First treatment option: Traditional bone setter [wogesha] massages the body of the newborn using butter.

If they do not improve, others like medications for Mitch will be provided to them or taken to a health facility.


Illness resulted from exposure to cold air/weather.

Cough plus with any of symptoms like fast breathing, crying, unable to breastfeed, irritability, groaning, chest in drawing, and diarrhea.

First treatment option: Covering with a cloth and frequent breastfeeding. There is nothing done for them until baptism [date of ‘Kristina’].

If not improved or gotten worse, taken to the health facility.

Enlargement or dropping of uvula or tonsil [tonsillitis]

Newborn illness resulted from the dropping of the brain [moves down]. Newborns might have a sore throat as a result of excessive crying.

Any one or combination of symptoms like unable to or difficulty of breastfeeding, vomiting, feeling hot, weakness, and frequent crying.

First treatment option: Treat traditionally by sucking the backside of the newborn neck or putting traditional medications on their head. With these, they perceive that the dropped brain returns to its normal size.

Also might be taken to the health facility.


Newborn illness which happens when the devil touches them.

Crying suddenly, paralyzing legs or hands, and other symptoms of evil eye sickness.

First treatment option: Treated traditionally by smoking tunjit. For protection, newborns would not be left alone, and sharp things are put beside them.

Evil eye [locally called buda]

Resulted from exposure to a person possessing an evil eye.

Anyone or combination of symptoms: unable to breastfeed, unable to open eyes, crying, irritable, loss of consciousness, body weakness, and difficulty of breathing.

First treatment option: Treated using traditional medications prepared from xenadam (Ruta chalepensis), white onion (Allium sativum), the root of grawa (Withania somnifera) and shiferaw (moringa olifera). Provided in the form of putting around the nose to smell it, steamed by smoking on fire or dilute the medications and make them drink little by little.

Common cold

Newborn illness that occur from poor hygienic condition of the newborn or transferred from a caregiver.

Cough plus any of combination of symptoms like feeling hot, unable to breastfeed, fast breathing, wheezing, unable to open eye, grunting.

First treatment option: Treat it using home-based remedies prepared from zingibil [ginger] and xenadam added into boiled milk, and also by breastfeeding.

If not improved taken to the health facility.