Traditional healers welcome regulation

Practitioners of traditional medicine have welcomed a recent decision by the government to come up with guidelines to regulate the profession.
The herbalists welcomed the move, yesterday, during celebrations to mark the Eighth African Traditional Medicine Day, which were held at the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IRST), in Huye District.

The document spells out the ethics for the practice of traditional medicine, guidelines for quality assurance and assessment, good agriculture practice and guidelines for research.

“We are now in the stage of putting the policy into practice by organising traditional medicine practitioners in cooperatives, reinforcing the ethics of traditional medicine, putting in place a legal framework for the practice, good clinical practices and agriculture practice for herbs,” said Victor Denis Nkudineza, the official in charge of traditional medicine in the Ministry of Health.

According to Marie Claire Musabyemariya, a traditional healer from Kicukiro District, the development is a welcome relief to all those associated with the trade.

“There has been no law that protects us. We have been disrespected by local authorities and health institutions; we have been called witchdoctors and all sorts of degrading names. We hope this law marks a beginning in making our work a more respectable profession,” she said.

This year’s celebrations were marked under the theme: ‘Decade of African Traditional Medicine’.
It is one decade since the adoption, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, of the Regional Strategy on Promoting the Role of Traditional Medicine in Health Systems.

Dr Mamadou Malifa Balde, WHO Country Representative, said that traditional medicine has always been a source of health care for the African people.

“It is our duty to analyze all the existing potential of traditional medicine and encourage those who are practicing it; we encourage the scientific community to undertake research to improve the current practice,” Dr Mamadou said.

Patrick Mwesigye a representative of the Minister of Health at the function hailed the contribution of traditional medicine practitioners to the health sector in the country. He said that traditional medicine is a first resort for about 70 percent of the people in rural areas.

“Traditional medicine has not been replaced by conventional medicine; the two complement each other,” said Mwesigye. He urged them to respect their profession and to operate in cooperatives where they can be assisted to work better.

According to Polycarpe Nyetera, Research Programmes Coordinator at IRST, the institute has been actively involved in research on traditional medicine.

The institute has also conducted multidisciplinary research on indigenous plants used in traditional medicine and produced various improved phytomedicines including syrups, solutions, ointments, capsules and herbal teabags as well as producing medical alcohol and essential oils.

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