Thursday, August 27, 2009

Incorporate traditional medicine into primary healthcare

Incorporating traditional medicine into primary healthcare system will improve the management of public health diseases, practitioners and experts agreed in Lagos on Wednesday. At a ceremony commemorating the African Traditional Medicine Day, marked every August 31, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, said that without traditional medicine, the realization of the millennium development goals will be a mirage.

"Traditional medicine which has been long neglected is the corner stone of an integrated healthcare system. We have yielded to the WHO's call as it is now part of our primary healthcare system in Lagos because we know that 80 per cent of the population patronize it. For about 33 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) had passed resolutions calling on member nations to give recognition to traditional medicine, but up till the moment, Nigeria has not passed the Bill on Traditional Medicine which will give it formal recognition in hospitals and regulation of the practice."

"There are challenges in making traditional medicine recognized in Nigeria," said Bunmi Omoseyindemi, the chairman of the Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board. "Insufficient evidence regarding safety and efficiency, inadequate coordination of existing practice and practitioners, lack of coordination among stakeholder and so on," Dr. Omoseyindemi added.

In a bid to effect these, the Lagos State passed the Health Sector Reform Law 2006, but many states are yet to incorporate it into their health system, and experts clamour for a national bill.According to the director general of the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency, Tamuno Okujagu, the Bill was last heard in the National Assembly five years ago and nothing is being done up till now."Yet the WHO has reported that at least 80 per cent of the population patronize one form of Traditional Medicine or the other."

The head of sellers of herbs for women and children, Ashabi Olomowewe told NEXT that she inherited the practice for over 40 years from her for parents and it has never failed her."I trained all my children with herbs, today they are grown up alive and well." Mrs Olomowewe who is in her mid sixties said that her experience has saved many pregnant women from going for caesarean operation."The doctors will say that the baby has crossed (breach birth), but there are certain herbs that if given the women, the baby will take the normal position and the woman give birth normally not needing an operation.

Attesting to the power of the practice also is the chairman of the Nigerian Traditional Medical Association, W. Oshodi; "The practice of using herbs is a blessing from God. There are many diseases that doctors cannot cure, but herbs can cure, so we call on the government to give it more recognition and to stop the orthodox doctors from looking down on us."

Citing India and China as examples of countries that have taken advantage of traditional medicine, Mr. Okujagu added: "If we can give traditional medicine its due recognition, it will not only help our health care, it has the potential of yielding billions of naira yearly export."

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