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Traditional medicine an African Heritage, says Health Minister

Oct 14, 2011, 2:01 PM | Article By: Isatou Senghore

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Fatim Badjie, has told more than 70 traditional medicine experts across the African continent that traditional medicine is an African heritage.

Health Minister Badjie, who was speaking at the opening of the 4th scientific congress of traditional medicine and conventional medicine practitioners at the Kairaba Beach Hotel Wednesday, said of all the traditional systems of medicine in the world, African traditional medicine is probably the oldest and most diverse, and yet the least documented.

The congress is being held on the theme: “Promoting Traditional Medicine in the ECOWAS sub-region: Prospects and Challenges”.

“Credible sources indicate that at least 80 percent of our people depend on traditional medicine for their health care needs. However, due to years of neglect, we have failed to harness its full potential for the benefit of our people,” she stated.

According to the Health minister, even in countries with sophisticated medical systems around the world, there is a move towards integrated healthcare that incorporates rational traditional medicine practices.

Consequently, she went on, huge efforts are being made to dispel suspicion about traditional medicine, and to encourage collaboration between orthodox and traditional medicine practitioners.

“I think it is a healthy development, which needs to be pursued in earnest in our part of the world, given our abysmal health indices, which I strongly believe conventional medicine alone is incapable of addressing.

Noting that it has been interesting in recent years to observe the growing criticism of the way healthcare is administered, Badjie said the concern is that the human body has too often been mechanistically reduced to individual parts, and treated with limited reference to the whole person.

She suggested to the experts attending the congress that, given the challenges of our health system, they move away from the often passive nature of the standard therapeutic relationship towards a more human and personalized one, which she said respects the rights of the citizenry.

Speaking earlier, Dr. Anthony Ebosele a traditional practitioner from Nigeria, said the prompt innovation by the organizers of this workshop is imperative, because of the menace and high mortality rate of the dreaded HIV infection.

The Director General of West African Health Organisation, Dr. Placido M. Cardoso, said his organisation’s traditional medicine program aims at supporting the ECOWAS member states to institutionalize traditional medicine in their health systems.

“This is because we are convinced that promoting traditional medicine is the only surest way  of ensuring ‘health for all’ the people of the sub-region, and WAHO believes that by virtue of their geographical location, traditional medicine practitioners are respected members of the community,” Cardoso added.

Dr. Kofi Busia, programme officer for traditional medicine WAHO, told the gathering that given the glowing statistics on the use of traditional medicine the world over, and on our continent in particular, it beggars believe that governments have not paid enough attention to the sector.