Jan 16, 2009, 4:53 AM
Delivering her statement ahead of the day, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Fatim Badjie, said 31st of August is African Traditional Medicine Day, a day that has been adopted by all African member states at the Durban Conference in 2003 in recognition of African traditional medicine for its complementarities to the health delivery system.
The annual celebration of the day is to promote traditional medicine by increasing public awareness of the medical discipline, she said, noting that the theme for this year is (Conservation of Medicinal Plants, African Heritage).
She noted that traditional medicine is the oldest form of health care practised in The Gambia; however conservation of medicinal plant in this systems has been limited in scope and yet the process of integrating it into the health systems of the African region is gradually being realised.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates almost 80% of the population of developing countries consults traditional medicine practitioners, for their primary health care needs.
Minister Badjie said the use of traditional medicines is quite prevalent, adding that the demand for medicinal plants is increasing in both developing and developed countries due to growing recognition of natural products being non-narcotic, having less side-effect, easily available at affordable prices and sometimes the only source of health care availability to the poor.
She pointed out that measures have been put in place by the Government of The Gambia and the WHO to check trend of devastation of the country’s woodlots by unscrupulous users whose “sole aim is to make money but unmindful of our ecosystem”.
In view of these malpractices, she added, regulation and control of practices of traditional medicinal practitioners, conservation and medicinal plant production of medicinal products, marketing, and ethics, a traditional medicine policy was formulated in 2005 to that effect and in the same vein The Gambia government has promulgated into law anti-copy right clause to protect the intellectual property rights of innovative Gambians, which is not restricted to only artists but has been equally extended to custodians of indigenous knowledge, especially traditional medicinal practitioners.
Minister Badjie pointed out that the Ministry of Health on the advice and facilitation of their traditional partner in health, WHO, has put in place strategies towards the integration of traditional medicine in the health care delivery of The Gambia.
She thanked the West African Health Organization (WAHO) for the immense support given to the Ministry of Health in the development of traditional medicine in The Gambia and President Jammeh for making attainment of health accessible and affordable to all Gambians and non-Gambians alike as well as a priority of his government.
She also commended the National Traditional Medicine Programme for setting the pace in the promotion of traditional medicine in The Gambia.