Dr Samba Urges Western-Trained Health Workers To Respect And Promote African Traditional Medicine

Brazzaville, 27 August 2004 -- WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Ebrahim Samba, has called on western-trained doctors, pharmacists and other modern health practitioners to respect and promote traditional medicine.

"Contemporary medical science should enhance and enrich (African) traditional medicine so that people can feel comfortable with it", Dr Samba said in a message to commemorate the second African Traditional Medicine Day which falls on 31 August. "If we, Africans, do not develop and promote traditional medicine, no one else will", he said.

The theme for the commemoration of this year's African Traditional Medicine Day is Moving the Agenda Forward with Traditional Medicine.

Dr Samba appealed to African countries to develop traditional medicine in ways appropriate to their circumstances with a view to reducing death and disability caused by mental disorders and diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

He noted that even though traditional medicine was often denigrated as "backward" during the colonial era, the practice has continued to thrive because it is culturally acceptable to the majority of Africans.

He stated that for 80% of Africans, traditional medicine was the only system that was accessible and affordable. He added, "for most, it is the only source of hope for the management or treatment of some priority diseases such as HIV/AIDS and sickle-cell anaemia". …/1 Dr Samba outlined specific measures which Member States should take to move the health agenda forward with traditional medicine.

These include developing policy, legal and regulatory frameworks for the practice of traditional medicine within the framework of other policies and legislation. He also said that relevant scientific research on medicinal plants should be conducted in collaboration with traditional health practitioners to validate claims made on safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicines. Countries should ensure that intellectual property rights are prioritized and that indigenous knowledge is protected.

Other measures include establishing an enabling economic, regulatory and political environment for local production of traditional medicines as well as developing industries that produce standardized remedies.

Traditional medicines should be registered by national authorities, according to Dr Samba, and appropriate information should be given to the general public so they have knowledge and skills for the proper use of traditional medicine.

For further information: 

Media contact:   Technical Contact:

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Samuel T. Ajibola

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Dr O. Kasilo

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Email: kasiloo [at] afro.who.int