The National Council of Traditional Healers and Herbalists Association has called upon the government through the Ministry of Health to enrich the medical curriculum and teach herbal medicine in treating patients in Uganda.
Appearing before Parliament’s National Economy Committee on Wednesday, to present proposals on how Covid-19 has affected their businesses, Mr Wilfred Ahimbisibwe, who led the team of herbalists urged government to provide capacity training to herbalists and enrich the curriculum of the current doctors.
“….they [medical doctors] are trained to view herbal medicine as something that isn’t true. There are a lot of herbalists and microbiologists and would like to carry out extensive research on herbal medicine but it hasn’t been invested in by government, Mr Ahimbisibwe said.
The herbalists said coronavirus has affected them negatively with most micro and small business owners experiencing a larger decline in business activity because they are unable to implement preventive measures like provision of on-site lodging for employees, sanitizers and other health care safety equipment for clients and staff.
The association also urged government to establish a standard laboratory to act as an incubation centre to help the industry to prepare itself for a future pandemic.
However, the Aswa County Member of Parliament, Mr Reagan Okumu, dismissed claims that medical doctors sideline herbal medicine. He said doctors at Lacor Hospital refer some orthopedic cases to traditional healers in Gulu.
Other MPs said they also buy herbal remedies from pharmacies.
Mr Okumu welcomed the idea of the University of Herbalists.
However, he said emphasis must be put on herbalists patenting their medicines to make it possible for scientists to test these medicines.
“There is no way you can separate this from modern medicine. The way you are doing your thing, you might be taking other people’s secrets which might not be right. How can that be tested for my treatment and be accepted internationally? You must modify it,” the MP advised.
Adding: “It must be tested. You can’t work alone. What is produced locally must be accepted internationally. You must take your medicine for test by another group. We are dying poor because we haven’t subjected our herbs to modern way of business.”
Ms Syda Bbumba, the chairperson of the National Economy Committee told the association that although the herbalists are asking government to fund them as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, government has many competing needs and sectors that pay taxes which tend to be looked at first.