Reports and Action on African Traditional Medicine Day 2015

Traditional healers in Cameroon “called on the introduction of [both] modern medicine and healer’s practices into formal education system at various levels.” They were promoting regulation and formal standing and asked for a “collaborative partnership based on mutual trust and mutual respect of both systems as well as the judicious introduction of traditional medicine in the national health systems of Cameroon.”

Traditional healers in CameroonThe action in Cameroon paralleled that of traditional healers across the continent on the occasion of the August 30, 2015, Africa Traditional Medicine Day. The day is declared and backed by WHO as part of their campaign to achieve recognition of traditional medicines and healers in the all-out effort to assure primary care for all. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, issued a letter celebrating the day: “The benefits of traditional medicine are evident to all, [but] there is no doubt proper regulation is essential to the provision of quality, safe and effective health care products and services.”

WHO’s Regional Office for Africa is working to bring a regulatory framework to traditional medicine including through the 2010 “Guidelines for Registration of Traditional Medicines in the African Region.”

Eighteen African nations in Africa presently have regulations in place. Celebrating Africa Traditional Medicine Day, Nigerian practitioners called for more education of the public while another focus was a strong push to weave traditional healers into government agencies. A perspective from Ethiopia notes regulatory steps in place but urges more, including establishing a research institute. The day prompted this article from Botswana in which it was asserted that regulation is news. Ekurhuleni officials in South Africa urged Herbal/Traditional Medicine Productsthat “every traditional healer in the area registered with the local government to stop impostors from operating in the metro.” In Rwanda, there is a network of 14,000 traditional healers and their efforts, including on Africa Traditional Medicine day, to organize: “Gafaranga said it was time for conventional health providers to build mutual trust with traditional healers as they both play a role in treating various diseases.” In Liberia, the celebratory events “started with a public parade by participants and also featured an exhibition of Herbal/Traditional Medicine Products” (see photo).

Just after, from the 3rd to 4th of September 2015, Gambia hosted the Seventh Scientific Congress of Traditional Medicine Practitioners and Conventional Medicine Practitioners. The meetings was convened by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) in conjunction with the government of the Gambia, through that nation’s Ministry of Health, and Social Welfare. The Congress’ aim was said to be “to keep up with the objective of WAHO to support the ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] Member States to promote dialogue between the practitioners of traditional medicine and conventional medicine.” Gambian Minister of Higher Education Research, Science and Technology, Abubacarr Senghore, MD, states that “our aim therefore as a country is to successfully incorporate traditional medicine into the national health system with a view to sharing best practices and processes with other African member states.” WAHO funded the meeting.

Comment: The ceremonial day’s activities creates an opportunity to see, at once, the consonance of activity across the continent. Repeat themes were calls for basic regulations and also, in more mature nations, for opening up and strengthening communication between conventional and traditional practitioners. The traditional healers have their work ahead of them to prep for more inclusion. Meanwhile, I am reminded of the remarkable recent summit of traditional healers covered in South Africa Summit Models Inclusion of Traditional Healers in HIV, Tuberculosis Campaign. The conventional and bio-medically-focused NGO community can certainly stimulate this integration by extending themselves with mutual trust to routinely engage and include the traditional medicines and practices that 60% to 80% still use for much of their basic healthcare.

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