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I am reading this news article, and I found the paragraph below does not make sense to me.

It will reduce the stigma, the pain and the harm caused on these patients, like stigmatizing and insulting them on their predicament," he said. "Giving them over to traditional healers, where they are abandoned to themselves and left at the mercy of these healers. Where people suggest sex as a channel of healing because they consider these diseases to be spiritual or at worst they are even abandoned to the streets.

Especially, I don’t understand how the part after “he said” works.

My questions are:

  1. What is the function of the clause ”Giving them over to traditional healers”? Is it a participle construction? Who is the subject of it?(the families of patients?)
  2. what is the main clause for the clause and sentence starting with “where”? (I thought at first the “where” in this paragraph works as the one in the sentence like “There was a situation where kids didn't have access to fresh food.”, but in this article, there seems to be no main clause.)
  3. What does “they are abandoned to themselves” mean?
  4. What is your interpretation of the paragraph? How do you paraphrase/summarise the paragraph? (I interpret the paragraph as “the doctor thinks people should bring the mental illness patients to the psychiatric hospitals, not to the traditional healers because traditional healers provide the patients with unsuitable treatments such as sex and abandoning in the street”, but it seems wrong…)
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    You ask good questions, and you ask them well. I don't know the answers, but I hope others do and can help you.
    – tchrist
    Oct 7, 2022 at 6:01
  • @tchrist I don't feel inclined to CV, though the question[/s] doesn't match various ELU requirements. Oct 7, 2022 at 13:50
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    The part after "he said" is more examples of the evils he is ranting about. They are not strung together by the correspondent into a meaningful paragraph. It's just politics. Oct 7, 2022 at 14:48
  • This is speech, not writing. It is a translation from the French but it is easily understandable. "It will reduce the stigma, the pain and the harm caused to these patients, like stigmatizing and insulting them about their predicament and giving them over to traditional traditional healers [etc.] The grammar of speech is not the grammar of writing. I would use when instead of where.
    – Lambie
    Oct 7, 2022 at 15:17

2 Answers 2

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I think your interpretation of the paragraph is basically right. The doctor's comments are presumably part of a conversation in an interview and don't exactly follow conventional rules of grammar.

"If [people with mental health issues] are given over to traditional healers, they are effectively abandoned and left at the mercy of these healers. [The healers] may suggest sex as a channel of healing... or, at worst, they may abandon [their patients] on the streets."

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These sentences were likely influenced by the French language. Although the doctor comes from the English speaking part of Cameroon (Buea), he studied and lives in the francophone capital city Yaoundé. All of this was probably said in one go but the transcription cuts it up with commas and periods that do not reflect the actual speech, leading to an inconsistent grammar.

  1. "Giving them over to traditional healers" is the continuation of what was said before: "[...], like stigmatizing and insulting them, [like] giving them over to traditional healers [...]"

  2. "Giving them to traditional healers with whom they are abandoned [...]

  3. "They are abandoned to themselves" is a calque of the French idiom ils sont abandonnés à eux-mêmes (they are left alone, left to their own devices).

  4. I agree with your interpretation although abandoning to the streets is not part of the "treatment" but what happens when patients are not even left on traditional healers' hands.

    Here is my attempt at rewriting the paragraph:

    It will reduce the shame, the pain and the harm caused to these patients when they are blamed and insulted because of their predicament, when they are given over to traditional healers with whom they are not given proper guidance, left at the mercy of these healers who might suggest sex as a channel of healing because they consider these diseases to be spiritual. At worst, they are even abandoned to the streets.

    Feel free to correct it, I'm not a native speaker!

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    A reasonable attempt. Three points: '... caused to ...', '... stigmatized and insulted because of their predicament', and 'stigma' or 'stigmatized' would be better replaced with a suitable synonym, if one works. Also, 'abandoned to themselves and left at the mercy of these healers' doesn't seem retrievable. Oct 7, 2022 at 13:53

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