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01.09.2005 Health

Tap indigenous knowledge in medicine -Appiah


Tamale, Sept 1, GNA - Mr. Agya Kwaku Appiah, President of the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (GHAFTRAM) on Wednesday stressed the need to tap indigenous knowledge in medicine for the benefit of the country.

He said this would require the collective efforts of all stakeholders in health care delivery and not only the traditional practitioners. "We need the assistance of orthodox practitioners, research scientists and the Ministry of Health (MOH) to unearth the wealth of indigenous knowledge in medicine," he added.

Mr. Appiah was speaking at the launching of the third African Traditional Medicine Day and the sixth Ghana Traditional Medicine Week celebration in Tamale.

The MOH in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and GHAFTRAM organised the day, under the theme: "African Traditional Medicine: Contributing to preventing HIV infection".

Mr. Appiah said there were herbal treatment for malaria and other diseases, which could be developed to save foreign exchange used to import drugs to treat such diseases in the country.

He said "we stand to lose in our prejudice against traditional medicine, we overlook its health and economic potential and allow other countries to research, repackage and export them to us". Mr. Appiah called on stakeholders in the health sector to chart a new course to help practitioners of traditional medicine to play a more central role in the health care delivery system. He said Association was putting in place measures to share knowledge in traditional medicine with other stakeholders to improve on health care delivery.

The President of GHAFTRAM said plans were underway to acquire land to establish a Herbal Exchange Centre (HEC) to encourage its members with potent herbal preparations on some diseases for intensive research and recommendation.

He said this would enable the Association control and regulate herbal medicine in the country.

Mr. Appiah announced that with effect from next year, the Association would organise regular programmes to update the skills and knowledge of members on nutrition, hygiene, group dynamism, management, organisation structure and functions, entrepreneurial development and intellectual property rights.

He called for unity among members to overcome the challenges posed by multi-national drug manufacturing companies.

Mr. Appiah appealed to the Government for the implementation of the Traditional Medicine Practice Act passed in 2000 to promote, control and regulate traditional medicine practice in the country. He called on the Government to give equal attention to the Ghana Traditional Medicine Week celebration as the National Farmers Day celebration because traditional practitioners cater for about 80 per cent of the health care needs of Ghanaians.

Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO's Africa Regional Director in a message read on his behalf, called on African Governments to be committed and involve traditional health practitioners as real partners in health care delivery systems.

He urged them to develop coherent policies, put in place regulatory and legislative actions for legal recognition of traditional health practitioners to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of their services.

"This commitment entails the design and implementation of culturally appropriate HIV prevention interventions," he added.

Dr Sambo called on stakeholders including Government officials, civil society, partners and NGOs to strengthen their contribution to African Traditional Medicine to play its role in HIV prevention interventions. He urged the practitioners to promote condom use and encourage negotiation between partners on the benefits of condom use, adding: "Condom disposal techniques must clearly be explained to users."

"You should also embark on programmes to educate the people to change customs and traditions that are risk factors in the spread of HIV infection. You should also make efforts to discourage people from indulging in sex with virgins or defiling and raping babies and very young girls which some people think is a cure for HIV/AIDS." Dr Samba stressed.

Dr. Sambo said the WHO had reviewed its five year technical and financial support to the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate of the MOH for another five years.

He said the WHO in addition, would provide financial support for the translation of the code of ethics for traditional practitioners into three local languages as well as work towards integrating traditional medicine into the existing health care system.

Dr Samba called on the Government to include herbal products in the National Health Insurance drug list and gave the assurance that the WHO would provide the necessary technical assistance and some financial support towards the development of the drug list.

Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, Northern Regional Minister said the future of Africa and Africans would be based on the development of traditional medicine as a viable alternative to the allopathic forms of medicine.

He said traditional medicine had the potential of improving health care delivery system in the country and all efforts must be made to give it a push.