African Traditional Medicine Day 2022: Message from the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti – World


African Day of Traditional Medicine 2022

Message from the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti

On August 31 every year for two decades, we have celebrated Africa Day of Traditional Medicine, to honor the integral role of traditional medicine in the health and well-being of generations of people on the continent.

This year’s theme,Two decades of African Traditional Medicine Day: Progress towards achieving Universal Health Coverage in Africa*”,* gives us the opportunity to reflect on the progress made so that traditional African medicine has the place it deserves in national health systems.

Traditional medicine has been the reliable, acceptable, affordable and accessible source of health care for African people for centuries. Even today, 80% of the continent’s population depends on traditional medicine for their basic health needs.

Since the launch of Africa Traditional Medicine Day in 2003, the continent has seen the implementation of the WHO Regional Strategies on Promoting and Strengthening the Role of Traditional Medicine in Health Systems, 2001-2010 and 2013-2023, as well as action plans for the First (2001-2010) and Second Decades of African Traditional Medicine (2011-2020).

Member States used the day to catalyze discussion forums around national policies on traditional medicine, the cultivation of medicinal plants, including the training of traditional healers, and their collaboration with their conventional counterparts.

These activities have prompted more than 40 countries in the African Region to develop national traditional medicine policies by 2022, up from only eight in 2000. Thirty countries have also integrated traditional medicine into their national policies, a 100% improvement over compared to 2000. In addition, 39 countries have established regulatory frameworks for traditional medicine practitioners, up from just one in 2000, demonstrating good governance and leadership.

Today, with 34 research institutes in 26 countries dedicated to the research and development of traditional medicine, it remains a promising industry, with great commercial potential if properly marketed internationally. Twelve of these countries reported having allocated public funds to this research and development over the past 10 years.

These institutes used WHO guidelines and protocols to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicine-based therapies for priority diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, diabetes, hypertension, sickle cell disease and, recently, COVID-19. Currently, 17 countries, compared to zero in 2000, have frameworks for the protection of intellectual property rights and traditional medical knowledge.

To advance continental efforts towards equitable access to medical products and technologies, all but eight African member states are now engaged in the large-scale cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants. Nineteen countries have also established facilities for the local manufacture of herbal medicines, with the number of herbal medicines registered by national regulatory authorities in 14 countries rising from just 20 in 2000 to more than 100. This year. More than 45 herbal medicines are now on national essential medicine lists.

In another important step, 25 countries have now integrated traditional medicine into their health science curricula, while 20 have established training programs for traditional health practitioners and health science students, to strengthen human resources in traditional medicine and primary health care. Thirty-nine countries have also developed legal frameworks for traditional healers.

Positive signs of traditional and conventional health systems working in parallel for the benefit of their patients are that patient transfers between the two sectors are now routinely taking place in 17 countries. A total of 24 countries have also developed codes of ethics and practice for traditional health practitioners, to ensure safety and standards of service delivery. Ghana is setting an example for the continent, with the establishment of traditional medicine clinics in 55 regional hospitals so far.

WHO in the African Region supported joint missions with partners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda, to monitor clinical trials of traditional medicine-based therapies proposed for COVID-19, eight of which are in progress . The political will shown by countries to support these innovations has been inspiring, as has the level of infrastructure and skills available.

Today, on the African Day of Traditional Medicine, I call on governments to strengthen collaboration between science, technology and innovation institutions; traditional health practitioners and the private sector, to accelerate research and development, and the local manufacture of therapies based on traditional medicine for the health and well-being of African populations.

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