African countries should harness traditional medicine that has proved effective in the management and cure of ailments afflicting the continent’s population, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Wednesday.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti underscored the critical role of herbal medicine in lessening the burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases in the continent.
“Traditional medicine has been the trusted, acceptable, affordable and accessible source of health care for African populations for centuries,” Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, marking the 2022 African Traditional Medicine Day.
Eighty percent of Africa’s population relies on traditional medicine for their basic health needs, she said, adding that the continent has prioritized its development through enactment of policies, research and training.
The 2022 African Traditional Medicine Day was being celebrated under the theme of “Two Decades of African Traditional Medicine Day: Progress Towards Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Africa.” Moeti noted that in the last two decades, the continent has come up with ambitious strategies to mainstream traditional medicine in national healthcare programs.
In particular, Moeti said, more than 40 African countries have developed national traditional medicine policies as of 2022, up from eight in 2000, while 30 countries have also integrated traditional medicine into their national health policies.
“Additionally, 39 countries have established regulatory frameworks for traditional medicine practitioners, compared to only one in 2000, demonstrating good governance and leadership,” she said.
Currently, 34 research institutes aimed at promoting research, development and commercialization of traditional medicine have been established in 26 countries, Moeti said.
She noted that 12 African countries have dedicated funds toward research and development of traditional medicine, adding that domestication of WHO protocols on safety and efficacy of traditional medicine have enhanced their use in treating priority diseases like HIV/AIDs, malaria, diabetes and hypertension.