Accra, Aug. 16, GNA - A World Health Organisation (WHO) Official on Monday urged traditional medical practitioners in Africa to register their products to reap the benefits of their use.
Speaking at the opening of the first scientific meeting of the Western Africa Network of Natural Products Research Scientists (WANNPRES) in Accra, Professor Charles Wambebe of the WHO Africa Regional Office, said traditional practitioners had lacked inter-continental trade for too long because of the lack of information on their products.
"There is an existing gap between traditional medicine practitioners and orthodox medical practitioners, which needs to be bridged in order to meet the health needs of the majority of the people," Prof. Wambebe said.
The six-day meeting, which has brought together about 100 participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo and Switzerland, has as its theme: "Harmonising Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge Systems for the Management of Malaria and HIV/AIDS."
Prof. Wambebe said traditional medicine was still the most accessible form of health care to the majority of people in Africa, hence the need for both orthodox and traditional institutions to collaborate to make health care accessible to the people.
He praised the Food and Drugs Board for being in the forefront of registration procedures for traditional medical practitioners.
"At the moment there are only 22 African countries out of the 46, which have a policy, framework or bill of a sort on traditional medicine."
Prof Wambebe urged the practitioners to conserve the plants that they used for the drugs to ensure their sustainable use.
The meeting seeks to identify and encourage research in the area of natural products and promote links among natural product researchers in Western Africa. It would also educate and encourage the public on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Prof Marian Ewurama Addy, Executive Secretary of WANNPRES, said although there were many natural products in Africa, financial benefits of such resources had been minimal.
"The systematic input of science to enhance the value of these natural products should give Africa a comparative advantage in both the local and global market," she said.
She said the understanding of the scientific bases for cure using natural products would lead to a more rational use of such products. Prof. Addy expressed the hope that the meeting would come out with knowledge of plant preparations that were most effective against malaria and HIV/AIDS.
She expressed concern about current trends in the pharmaceutical industry saying local pharmacists trained with the taxpayer's money were no longer interested in preparing medicine or drugs for the treatment of ailments.
"Our pharmacists instead prefer to import drugs from other countries whilst the materials for the treatment that our people have used through the ages and still use to treat themselves are right under our noses in the same form that they were centuries ago," Prof. Addy said.
Prof. Daniel Adjei Bekoe, Former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, who chaired the function, said Africa had not been able to add value to its natural product in the past because it lacked the technology and human resources.
"It is, therefore, necessary for us to establish networks that would share knowledge about how to add value to the remaining natural resource to the advantage of the entire Continent," he said.
"Health and education are the two essential components of any development and if we do not share these resources, we would continue to lag behind as a Continent," Prof Bekoe said.
Prof. Daniel Ofori-Adjei, Director, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, in his welcoming address said it was often very difficult for scientists to blend the ancient and the modern, yet Ghana was on the path to blend the two in order to make healthcare accessible to all.
He said the Institute was establishing a 16-bed clinical building that would cater for research in malaria and HIV/AIDS.