Shopona: The Yoruba God’s contribution to public health.

Shopona: The Yoruba God's contribution to public health. 1

The last known case of Smallpox was in Somalia in 1977, Smallpox is a contagious, often deadly disease which leave infected persons with disfiguring scars that lasts long and reminds such person of their horrific experience. This disease affected the human race for thousands of years until it was eradicated in 1980 which was achieved with the help of an unprecedented global immunization campaign. The first symptom of Smallpox usually appear 10-14 days post exposure to the VARIOLA VIRUS which is the causative agent of the disease, sudden on-set of signs and symptoms begins few days after being infected which include fever, overall discomfort, headache, severe fatigue, severe back pain. A few days later, flat, red spots appear first on the face and fore arms, and later on the trunk. Within a day or two, many of the lesions turn into small blisters filled with clear fluid, which then turn into pus. Scabs begin to form, eight to nine days later and eventually fall off, leaving deep, potted scars. Shopona in the Yoruba Traditional Religion is known as the god of small pox which was wide spread back then and was used to threaten people especially debtors. Also called Babalu-aye or Omolu as most people threaded calling its real name for fear of being inflicted with the small pox disease which was believed to be foisted upon humans due to Shopona’s divine displeasure. The organized worship of Shopona was controlled by specific priest who are in charge of the shrines to the gods, creditors report debtors who have refused to pay to the priest and the Shopona god’s anger is inflicted upon such people, people also reported community members they felt have wrong them to the priest and Shopona’s displeasure will be seen all over their body in days. Most people feared the Shopona priests as they feared the god itself except for Dr Oguntola Sapara who suspected the priests were purposely inflicting people with the small pox infection, he never believed Shopona was behind it as he is known for his staunch support for the Yoruba Traditional Religion and Yoruba gods. He made a brave move that showed he was a real Doctor without Border, he sought for permission to join the Shopona priest and being a respected person, the priests welcomed him with open arms not knowing he was there just to spy. Dr Oguntola discovered the priests were deliberately spreading the disease by applying scrapping of the skin rash of small pox from an infected person on the people that did not dance to their tune, the case was reported to The British Colonial rulers and the worship of Shopona god was banned in 1907. However, the worship of Shopona still continues till date with worshippers from different parts of the world with little altercation in the way the name is pronounced. Small pox infection was an epidemic during that period and the mischievious priests used Shopona’s name to spread it, worshippers still pay homage to the god despite the told secret, they feel the British colonial masters only banned its worship to show their disdain towards Yoruba Traditional Religion.

About the Author

Akinlabi Bisola has a Bachelors degree in Health Education and Masters Degree in Public Health Education. She is the founder of The Health Educator's Library Consultant and a Trained and certified first aider. She is a Social Media for Health and Development Expert (GHEL) as well as a Health Communication Expert (GHEL).
She runs a podcast called THEC with Bisola and a website called


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