Gambia Observe African Traditional Medicine Day

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the Traditional Healers Assembly of the Gambia, yesterday joined the rest of Africa to commemorate the African Traditional Medicine day which is celebrated annually on the 31st of August.

The celebration, under the theme "Traditional Medicine and Patient Safety" is observed by government agencies and traditional healers in the African continent with the objective of promoting traditional medicine and to increase public awareness on developments in traditional medicine.

Speaking at the commemoration, Ramou Cole-Ceesay, Assistant Director Family Health and Disease Control at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare said the theme for this year's celebration offers a unique opportunity to promote traditional medicine, to reflect on its dual role both as a variable option for modern medicine, and its ability to work with the health care delivery systems in member states.

According to her, traditional medicine plays an unsurpassable role in patient's health care seeking behavior and management of patients. "Since 1994, the Ministry has endorsed traditional styles of medicinal work in its national health policy, thanks to the Traditional Medicine Technical Units' program level policy and clear plan of strategy", she added.

For his part, Alpha Jallow, who represented the WHO Representative underscored the importance of patient safety, as constituted in the 2002 WHO resolution (WHA 55.18). The resolution, he added outlined the role of the WHO, and urged member states to establish or strengthen science based systems necessary for improving patient's safety.

He stated that the theme "Traditional Medicine and Patient Safety", is in recognition of the importance of patient safety and the global focus on ensuring overall quality of care.

This concept of patient safety, he continued, refers to the processes or structures which, when applied reduce the probability of adverse events occurring from interaction with the healthcare system. He added that patient safety aims at making healthcare safer for patients and health care providers.

Mr Jallow also noted that populations throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America use traditional medicines to meet their healthcare needs, and that widespread and growing use of traditional medicine has created public health challenges.

He however revealed that many people believe that traditional medicines are natural, they are safe or they carry no health risk, saying that any medicine, herbal or otherwise has the potential to cause side-effects, incorrect diagnosis and using unproven products.

He said the multiple use of unsterilized devices related to traditional practices to incise or pierce the skin, could increase the transmission of infected diseases, and even endanger patients.

Also addressing the gathering on behalf of the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Mariama Jallow, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the same Ministry, Mr. Sainey Susso said the commemoration was ratified in Durban, South Africa by African Assembly Ministers in 2001 with the sole objective of promoting traditional medicine, which he said invariably could be a visible option for conventional medicine thereby complementing Governments quota in the outreach healthcare system of African Countries.

DPS Susso further noted that the slogan of the observance of the day could enhance public confidence in traditional medicine and strengthen their partnership with other healthcare deliverance. He said the government of the Gambia is making all effort to improve healthcare by making it more affordable to everybody in its drive to meeting the MDG's targets of the WHO Traditional Medicine agenda.

Amadou Njie, the president of the Traditional Medicine Assembly of the Gambia, said this day is celebrated because traditional medicine start in memorial, adding that traditional medicine was used to cure a lot of diseases than the conventional one.

He urged members of the Assembly to come together to promote unity and peace across the country in their healings and treatments for the betterment of the healthcare system of the Gambia.

Salif Puye, Vice President of the Association, and Ebrima Jawneh, Secretary General, both spoke at length about the importance of traditional medicine and the background of the traditional medicine.

Author: Sainey M.K. Mareneh