21 December 2012

Tanzania: Researcher Hails Traditional Healers

TRADITIONAL medicine experts in the country are calling on the government to integrate traditional medicine into the health care system.

A researcher from the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Mabibo area in Dar es Salaam, Dr Paul Kazyoba, told the 'Daily News' during a workshop with traditional medicine entrepreneurs that a lot was to be gained.

"The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) already has a good policy that has already started being implemented. What remains is a framework into the health care system that would use the findings from researches and indigenous knowledge," he said.

Dr Kazyoba said that China and India were two countries that were profiting from traditional medicine but in Africa only South Africa in the continent had made any commendable strides. He explained that in South Africa, the African National Congress party had incorporated traditional medicine promotion in its constitution and that it had made the difference.

"The major problem why South Saharan Africa hasn't made much progress is because people are brainwashed with convectional medicines. There is a serious need to change the mentality on how we regard traditional medicine for any real impact to be felt," he said.

Dr Kazyoba said that another stumbling block was medical doctors who are intensifying the myths yet many are unaware that conventional medicines are formed from plants. He said that there was a need to organize and training traditional healers about the usefulness of Intellectual Property Rights and patenting such that they start profiting from their products as well as training on branding, distribution and good practices.

The MOHSW Acting Assistant Director of Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Dr Paulo Mhame, said that in 2012 alone the total global trading on traditional medicine amounted to over 80bn US dollars and that projections for 2050 were 5trl/- US dollars.

Dr Mhame said that it was saddening that Africa and Middle East accounted less that one per cent of the total yet Africa and particularly Tanzania was rich in different tropical trees and vegetation with medicinal value. "Of the total figure of the trading for this year, China and India possessed 30 per cent of the share.

Tanzania has a huge potential but it is a country in a coma where people from outside the country come and benefit more from its resources," he said. Referring to the "magic cup" of Babu, Dr Mhame said that he was thankful to him for stirring the traditional medicine debate and was glad that it had raised awareness among the public.

He said that few people know that 60 per cent of the population relies on traditional healers for their treatment and that there were over 75,000 healers in the country making it the biggest health manpower in the country.

Dr Mhame said that in his opinion there were no policy challenges though he saw individual challenges whereby different institutions conduct researches on traditional medicine but prefer not to share with the Ministry.

A lecturer of the University of Dar es Salaam in the Department of Chemistry, Dr Quintino Mgani said that what the practice of traditional medicine and natural product research really needs is better communication between healers and scientists.

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