Health experts have acknowledged the role traditional medicine plays in improving people’s health and called for more investment in research and innovations in the traditional and complementary medicine sector.
Prof Gilbert Matsabisa, the research director of University of Free Town, South Africa, said that there are approximately 350,000 medicinal plants globally but about 20 per cent has been systematically investigated for their medicine use.
Speaking during the 19th African Traditional Medicine Day celebration in Kampala yesterday, Prof Matsabisha said Africa should do directed research on the medicinal plants to improve people’s health.
“The research that we do has to respond to the aspirations of our communities, of the ordinary person. Let us move away from talking about the resources we have, but talk about what we did with these resources. So, we move away from resource-based thinking towards knowledge-based thinking; the utilisation of resources that we have in our countries,” he said.
Mr Joseph Mwoga, the National Professional Officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed that traditional medicine existed in Africa long before conventional medicine and has the potential to prevent diseases and cure people.
“WHO estimates that 80% of people in developing countries rely on traditional medicine for their primary healthcare needs,” he said.
To recognise the vital role traditional medicine plays, Mr Mwoga said WHO launched its first ever comprehensive traditional medicine strategy in 2002. It was updated 2013.
“The strategy focuses on the areas, reinforcement of stewardship and governance, development of local production, cultivation and conservation of biological, research and development, local production, protection of intellectual property rights and traditional medicines knowledge among others. He said.
The Director General of Uganda National Health Research Organisation (UNHRO), Dr Sam Okware, stressed the need to recognise that traditional healers are important players in promoting health and the urgent need to build capacity to build infrastructural gaps as well as human resource gaps in promoting herbal medicine.
He applauded President Yoweri Museveni for funding and leading efforts towards establishing the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE).
“The initiative has supported a scientific approach in the investigation of traditional medicine.” Dr Okware said.
He revealed that equipment worth Shs2.4b was provided for herbal extraction.
“PRESIDE is also supporting the ongoing indigenous UBV 01Nproduct clinical trials on Covid-19. Research in clinical trials for traditional medicine is required to demonstrate efficacy.” He said.
Meanwhile, Dr Neville Okuna Oteba, Commissioner Pharmaceuticals and Herbal Medicines at the Ministry of Health noted that among the 11 priorities in the strategic plan 2021/2022, they focus on Traditional and Complementary Medicines (TCM).
“But for this financial year, we are going to concentrate on Traditional and Complementary Medicines and the objective is to ensure streamlined regulation and application of TCM in Uganda,” she explained.