KENYA—To regulate and encourage the sector, the Ministry of Health has created the Traditional and Alternative Health Practitioners Bill 2022.
This new bill seeks to duplicate the provisions of the former Kenya Drugs Authority (KDA) Bill 2022, which was introduced in Parliament.
According to a World Health Organization assessment, up to 80% of our population, primarily in rural regions, receives primary treatment from traditional medicine.
Over 170 of the World Health Organization’s 194 Member States today use some sort of traditional medicine, such as herbal medicine, yoga, Ayurveda, acupuncture and acupressure, and indigenous therapies.
Traditional medicine is often the first port of call for many people, and practitioners of traditional medicine have played an essential role in the treatment of chronic ailments.
Traditional medicine (TM) is frequently perceived as more accessible, inexpensive, and acceptable to local populations and can thus be used to assist in attaining universal health coverage.
While the use of traditional medicine in primary health care (PHC) and universal health care (UHC) is increasing, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR Korea) has a long history of employing it.
DPR is a pioneer in combining traditional and allopathic treatments to give care and enhance health and well-being.
Koryo traditional medicine is used by over 70% of the population in DPR Korea at the PHC level, 30-40% at the central level, and 40-60% at the county level.
Unani, traditional Chinese, Ayurveda, and Siddha medicine are some of the well-known systems. Other lesser-known systems that are gaining prominence include Australian, Central and South American, and African systems of medicine.
Traditional medicine is commonly used to treat bone and joint illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders (paralysis, cerebral palsy), and metabolic disorders (diabetes, gout).
Other conditions include gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory disorders (asthma, cold), skin disorders, gynaecological disorders (menstrual irregularity), and mental and psychological illnesses.
Traditional medicine is a concept that many people in underdeveloped nations, such as Kenya, understand because of its social, economic, and cultural significance.
The traditional use of herbs for medicinal purposes is a cultural practice passed down through generations in Maasai society.
Even though herbal medical products are still widely utilized in Kenya, many of the medicinal plants used by traditional medical practitioners (TMPs) have not been documented, despite various issues that are now threatening the practice’s survival.
Little is known about the traditional governance mechanisms that assist in regulating the trade and practice of traditional medicine in Kenya.
Modern governance techniques, spanning from laws to regulations that regulate traditional medicine, have always piqued people’s curiosity and concentration.
The World Health Organization defines TM as “knowledge, skills, and practices based on theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to various cultures and used in the maintenance of health and the prevention, diagnosis, improvement, or treatment of physical and mental health.”
However, a healthcare system that is struggling to keep up with demand, hefty expenses, and the side effects of traditional medication, as well as drug resistance, have all served to give TM in Kenya a lifeline.
Furthermore, the number of scientific studies that continue to confirm therapeutic claims claimed by TM practitioners in Kenya has steadily increased.
However, to fully achieve the immense potential of TM in Kenya, deliberate efforts must be made in legislation, regulation, research, and collaboration in all things relating to TM.
It is worth noting that there is no information on the issues and state of traditional medicine in Kenya.
Traditional medicine has come a long way since its inception. However, because of a number of constraints, there hasn’t been much progress in the development and application of TM as a resource.
The KDA Bill requires the authority to register both herbal goods and practitioners. The Authority will create the criteria and requirements for traditional medicine registration, as well as a practitioner registry with set registration fees.
The council will establish a code of conduct, license herbal product makers, examine their facilities, and establish a complaints and response process.
Among other things, the council will evaluate and register learning institutions that offer traditional medicine courses, establish research links within and beyond the country, and mainstream traditional medicine in our public health centers.
The Traditional and Alternative Health Practitioners Bill, which has been in the works for several years, is more supportive of the sector than the KDA Bill currently before Parliament.
There are also growing concerns that if the KDA is ratified in its current form, the far-reaching TAHP Bill will be adopted.
As they debate the KDA Bill, Members of Parliament should seek clarification from the Ministry on the status of the Traditional and Alternative Health Practitioners Bill 2022.
Due to a lack of marketing and regulation in the business, illegal practitioners have flourished, giving the profession a poor name in Kenya.
As a result, people have lost faith in products and are increasingly turning to imported traditional medicine from other countries.
To overcome this issue, it is necessary to invest in adding value and enhancing the quality of traditional medicine by establishing a link between people’s indigenous medical knowledge and modern science.