Ethiopia: Where Is Traditional Medicine Heading?

After suffering from asthma during his childhood, Merigeta Bekalu Mulu, sought for help from traditional healers. This also led him to attend the church academy for 20 years in Gojjam, Amhara state. On top of this, he worked as an assistant to his grandfather who was healer, and later transferred his ages old knowledge.

"Traditional medicine is not a recent innovation. Rather it was practiced since the time of Adam and eve as God gave them 2000 varieties of plants to be used for medication.", he stated.

Currently Bekalu offers traditional medicine mainly for illnesses like haemorrhoid, asthma, herpes zoster, epilepsy, among others. He diagnoses illnesses by smelling.

Merigeta Bekalu, says the major challenges facing traditional medicine is lack of due attention to the sector and the peoples stereotypes who confuse traditional healing with evil spiritual power. This has led people to develop wrong perception about traditional healers than seeking their help.

As to him, currently, 2,000 healers exist in Addis Ababa but they are not organized in an association. The country has not succeeded in modernizing traditional medicine due to lack of attention. While Ethiopian cultural center works on collecting information, organizing them, analyzing and supporting the researchers that they do on traditional medicine , though a lot remains ahead.

Bekalu on his part said that he had an opportunity to visit China where he observed that traditional medicine is given due attention by the peoples and government. There is also large institution where traditional medicine service is delivered, noted Bekalu.

On the other hand, although the healers are interested to work hand in hand with the modern medication they still face lack of commitment and supporting, he added.

Ethiopian Culture Center Director Tesfaye Shimeles said that the main purpose of the center is collecting, organizing, analyzing and encouraging researchers on traditional medicine in the country, but it is not yet successful as desired.

He further stated since Ethiopia is home to various nations and nationalities it is also endowed with various types of traditional medicines that are used in various way. In addition to this, different plants, dairy (animals output), and roots are the some major inputs that used to prepare traditional medicines in Ethiopia. On the other hand, the center also has the responsibility that work aggressively on traditional medicines adapting or modernizing and keeping beneficiary from the center to the country, noted Tesfaye.

Bekalu also stated that destroying plants is likely to pose threat on traditional medicine in Ethiopia gradually. In order to preserve these plants, the Health Bureau, Agricultural Bureau, stockholders, and Healers should collaborate and work aggressively, he believes.

Assistant Professor and Researcher on traditional medicines at Addis Ababa University, Mesfin Paulos on his part said that traditional medication is not effectively used due to various challenges.

According to Mesfin, lack of conviction, researches, guideline that how to use the medicine, limited protecting and preservation of indigenous culture and resources, lack of institution, and among others are some of the major problems of traditional medication that are hindering the country and the healers from benefiting from the sector.

As to him, some healers are reluctant to transfer their knowledge of traditional medication to others that in order to avoid the possible abuse of the traditional medicine. He further stated that Traditional medicine has various significance to cure diseases that are not treated by modern medication so far. 80 up to 90 percent of the population are using traditional medicines throughout the country, he added.

Still now TM is not free from similar problems, he underlines. Stockholders should be playing their own role and becomes synergy to strength the medicines in the country, he believes.

Belaye Ambaye, a traditional healer who acquired the knowledge from his father, on his part said that lack of recognition, supporting, commitment and responsibility are some of the major problems hampering the growth of traditional medicine, he believes.

Particularly, the failure to designate a responsible government organ on traditional medicine is a serious challenge of the sector within the country, noted Belay. He also agrees that the alarming destruction of plants will threaten traditional medicine thereby exposing the society to various types of health hazards some years later.

He remembered that the association of healers was started in the 1970's, though no effective association exists yet.

Supporting of the sector, give high intention, organizing healers, planting, and creating enabling environment for integrating both traditional and modern medication are crucial to nurture the sector, he elaborated.

Above all, traditional medicine is significant for society that they use properly while healers are playing decisive role that to avoid serious health problems from the country. In order to strengthen this individuals should be playing indispensable role that so as to ensuring sustainable TM within the country and become adapting to modernization, learnt Ethiopian Herald.

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