The Gambia has now joined the rest of the international community to commemorate African Traditional Medicines Day 2014 which is usually observed on 31st August every year. This year’s event which had to be shifted to the 10th September 2014 because of other emerging activities was held at the Kanifing Municipality Council (KMC). The theme for this year is “Collaboration between traditional medicine practitioners and conventional medicine practitioners”. This theme draws attention to the urgent need for close collaboration between two key partners as a way of enhancing the role of traditional medicine in health-care delivery.
The Governor of Lower River Region who doubles as the Vice-President of Traditional Healers Assembly (TRAHASS), Mr. Salifu Puye gave an overview of key achievements made by members of the assembly. He urged all members to work with various partners and stakeholders to complement their efforts.
Mr. Puye gave a brief history of traditional medicine in the Gambia during days when conventional medicine was a mere dream and patients were healed with local medicines in the absence of conventional doctors. He went on to say that the practice was deeply rooted in traditional African set up.
He then highlighted on some challenges faced by the assembly followed by recommendations; key among these was the integration of traditional medicine into the main national healthcare delivery system as well as establishing good local clinics which can provide the right medicine for the right ailments. He finally urged all registered members of TRAHASS to come together for the betterment of the healthcare system.
Mr. Alpha Jallow NPO/CWS representing the WHO Country Representative, Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses, highlighted that commemorating African Traditional Medicine Day 2014 provides an excellent opportunity for stakeholders, including governments, research institutes, traditional and conventional health practitioners, communities and other development partners, to share information and experiences on traditional medicine.
Mr. Jallow appealed to governments in the African Region to increase investment in traditional medicine so as to realize this year’s theme.
He thanked the government through the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare and assured them of WHO’s continued support in their endeavour to make traditional medicine a viable component of their national health systems.
In launching the exhibition, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Hon. Omar Sey, hailed WHO for recognizing the crucial role traditional medicine plays in our societies. He said 31st August marks another important day in the WHO calendar of health events since it was adapted by African Health Ministers in South Africa in 2001. He highlighted government’s efforts to improve health care by making it more accessible and affordable to everybody in a bid to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and targets of the WHO Regional Strategy on traditional medicine.
Hon. Omar Sey commended the harmonious co-existence of both the conventional and traditional medicines in the Gambia. He however dilated on some setbacks noting that the formulation and enforcement of regulations to curb undesirable traditional medicine practices such as regular advertisement of traditional medicinal products with fraudulent claims were yet to be addressed.
The representative of the Mayor of the Kanifing Municipal Council seized the opportunity to advise traditional healers to consider ‘Patient Safety’ in line with their work. He challenged the Traditional Healers Association to ensure that traditional healers stay within their limits in dealing with patients. He noted that the theme was befitting as it will enhance public confidence in traditional medicine and will strengthen the partnership with other health care deliverers.
The occasion was chaired by the Director of Health Services, Dr. Momodou Lamin Waageh. In attendance were senior government dignitaries, health personnel, and traditional healers and a cross section of the general public. Participants were all privileged to visit an exhibition organized by the traditional healers as part of the commemoration.