AFRICA – Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the first woman to be elected as World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, has acknowledged remarkable progress towards African traditional medicine being afforded the prominence it deserves in national health systems.
The Regional Director announced major improvements in the African traditional medicine space in commemoration of the 2022 African Traditional Medicine Day under the theme “Two Decades of African Traditional Medicine Day: Progress Towards Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Africa”
WHO highlights that Member States used the day to catalyze discussion forums around national policies on traditional medicine, cultivation of medicinal plants including training of traditional health practitioners, and their collaboration with their conventional counterparts.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Moeti said that traditional medicine has been the trusted, acceptable, affordable and accessible source of health care for African populations for centuries, noting that 80% of the continent’s population relies on traditional medicine for their basic health needs.
To advance continental efforts towards equitable access to medical products and technologies, all but eight African Member States are now engaged in large-scale cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants.
Dr Moeti urged governments to strengthen collaboration between science, technology and innovation institutions together with traditional health practitioners and the private sector to fast-track research and development as well as local manufacturing of traditional medicine-based therapeutics.
Dr Moeti further said that more than 40 African Region countries have develop national traditional medicine policies, thirty countries have integrated traditional medicine into their national policies and 39 countries have established regulatory frameworks for traditional medicine practitioners.
“Today, with 34 research institutes in 26 countries dedicated to traditional medicine research and development, it remains a promising industry, with great commercial potential if marketed appropriately internationally,” observed the WHO AFRO Director.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti announced that twelve of WHO African Region countries are reportedly making public fund allocations to traditional medicine research and development while emphasizing the integral role of traditional medicine in the health and welfare of generations of people on the continent.
She disclosed that major research institutes have employed WHO guidelines and protocols to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicine-based therapeutics for priority diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, diabetes, hypertension, Sickle-Cell Disease and COVID-19.
“Currently 17 countries, as opposed to zero in 2000, have frameworks for the protection of intellectual property rights and traditional medical knowledge,” noted Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa.
She pointed out that a huge number of African Member States are engaged in large-scale cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants in a bid to advance continental efforts towards equitable access to medical products and technologies.
She underscored that nineteen African Region countries have established facilities for the local manufacture of herbal medicines while more than 45 herbal medicines now feature on national essential medicines lists.
“25 countries have now integrated traditional medicine into their health sciences curricula, 20 have established training programmes for traditional health practitioners and health sciences students and thirty-nine countries have developed legal frameworks for traditional health practitioners,” she said.
In addition, WHO in the African Region has supported joint missions with partners to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda to monitor clinical trials of traditional medicine-based therapeutics proposed for COVID-19.
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