SarjoCamara-Singateh The West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), with support fromGuests and delegates ECOWAS,held its 7th Scientific Congress on Traditional Medicine Practitioners (TMPS) and Conventional Medicine Practitioners (CMPs) at the Paradise Suites Hotel from the 3-4th September 2015. In declaring the meeting officially opened, Dr. AbubacarrSenghore, the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, told the delegates that the sole aim of bringing them together is in keeping with the objective of WAHO to support the ECOWAS Member States to promote dialogue between the practitioners of traditional medicine and conventional medicine. “You will recall that 6th Scientific  Congress of  Traditional Medicine Practitioners and Conventional Medicine Practitioners held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in 2013, explored ways and means of  how we can more effectively harness traditional medicine in the on going efforts to reduce the growing burden of maternal and child mortality in the ECOWAS sub-region,” said the science and research minister. He added that the main justification for this has been to achieve the MDG goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75%  by  2015 and which, he said, is already adopted as an International Development Target (IDT). Dr. Senghore said in addition to this, it was at the same venue that the  congress launched the newly published West African Herbal Pharmacopoeia and which is a land mark document consisting of monographs of medicinal plants used primarily for the treatment of 6 priority diseases namely malaria, hypertension, diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, HIV/AIDs and TB which were developed with experts from the sub-region “We are here to discuss traditional medicine because in some communities in ECOWAS Member States traditional medicine has been a crucial part of healing for hundreds of years. In some African countries, 80% of the population depend on traditional medicine for primary health care,” he said. Dr. Senghore said in  spite  of  the  huge  advances  in  science  and technology, traditional medicine remains the  only source of health care for the vast majority of African populations for meeting their healthcare needs. “And even today, herbal medicine remains the first line of treatment for 60% of children with malaria¬ induced high fever in some ECOWAS countries, justifying the theme: “Current Level of Traditional Medicine Development in the ECOWAS Region” of  the  7th Scientific  Congress of Traditional Medicine Practitioners (TMPS) and Conventional Medicine Practitioners (CMPs),” said the higher education, research, science and technology minister. Dr. Senghore said it has been recognized that traditional medicine has a long history in our communities with wide impact, adding that it is still an important component of modern health care system thus playing a significant and indispensable role in many countries. “Various types of traditional medicine and medical practices referred to as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) have been increasingly used in developed and developing countries alike,” he said. Dr. Xavier Crespin, the Director General of WAHO, said his experience as the DG of WAHO over the last one and a half years has revealed to him how fragile the health systems in their countries are. “This explains our perennial inability to respond to the rampant outbreaks of disease epidemics in our region,” he revealed. The WAHO DG said he is convinced that the immense potential of Traditional Medicine could be harnessed to address some of these health challenges, adding that it is for this reason that he has taken keen interest in the promotion of rational traditional medicine practice in the ECOWAS region. “Indeed, this meeting is timely coming at a time when WAHO is developing its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan . I am aware that the Programme Officer made wide consultations with all of you for your inputs, which have been captured under the following 5 major interventions: Implementation of intellectual property rights on pharmaceuticals, including Traditional Medicines; Strengthening innovation, research and development of drugs and vaccines, including Traditional Medicine products; Promoting local production of medicinal plants of proven efficacy; Strengthening the capacities of National Medicines Regulatory Authorities and Quality Control Laboratories and Promoting Education and Training in Traditional Medicine,” said the WAHO DG. Dr Kofi Busia of WAHO said he was convinced this congress will generate intellectually stimulating discussions that will inform them about where they are and what they need to do to go forward. “In our attempts to promote traditional medicine, we need to be innovative, passionate, courageous, flexible to change, selfless, and above all respectful of our Traditional Medicine Practitioners,” he told delegates. He said “if after 8 years of WAHO’s interventions, your country is still at the same level that it was before 2007, then I am afraid, you have a case to answer before the court of generations yet unborn. History will surely not forgive us if we fail to seize the moment to improve traditional medicine practice in this part of the world.” He told the delegates that as they are gathered there to take stock of their achievements and failures, let them constantly remember that this is the only sub-region with a structured and funded programme for traditional medicine based in a health institution on the continent, and that they  must be forever grateful to the WAHO authorities, in particular, and their governments for making this possible. Dr Tamsir Mbowe, who spoke on integrating traditional medicine into national health systems to contribute to universal health coverage in ECOWAS, said several countries are beginning to accept the immense ways in which traditional medicine can contribute to the health and well-being of their people. He said governments, healers and consumers are now beginning to consider aspects of traditional medical practices and how it can be integrated into health service delivery. Dr. Mbowe said in several developing countries, native healers are still the major health providers for millions of people living in rural areas. He said the safety, quality, potential and effectiveness of traditional and complementary medical service provision cannot be ensured unless appropriate regulation of its practices and practitioners are put in place. Dr. Mbowe, however noted that one of the major challenges they are faced with in The Gambia is the illiteracy level of most of the traditional medical practitioners. He said health-related projects initiated by local communities on the use of traditional herbal medicines are more likely to succeed if they are based upon partnerships involving conventional medicine. Dr. Mbowe said for traditional medicine to be effectively integrated into national health systems to contribute to universal health coverage in ECOWAS, countries have to establish health institutes to promote research on the safety, efficacy and quality of plants used in traditional medicines, particularly for the treatment of common infections such as malaria, diabetes, hypertension and other diseases. He added that ethical and legal consideration should be consistent across all types of healthcare, ensuring patient health and safety is prioritised. He concluded that it is imperative that governments are accountable for the nature of health care provided to its people and should incorporate it in its policies, regulations on safe and effective practice of traditional medicine.]]>

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