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WHO, others commend Nigeria on traditional medicine breakthroughs

Gloria Essien, Abuja

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has commended Nigeria for the listing of 14 herbal medicinal products by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) against COVID-19 and ongoing clinical trials on them.

The WHO Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo gave the commendation at an event to mark the 2021 Traditional Medicine Day.

He said that the listing is in line with the Regional Expert Committee on COVID-19 aim of elevating the standards of clinical trials of traditional medicine for COVID-19.

He said that the ongoing research(s) in the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research & Development (NIPRD) and other higher institutions, highlights the interest of the Government of Nigeria to develop and promote African Traditional Medicines

He noted that Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations over the centuries.

The African Heads of State in 2001, declared traditional medicine research a priority and subsequently designated the next 10 years as decade of African Traditional Medicine which was extended to the year 2020. For the past 20 years, countries in the WHO African Regional Office have marked the African Traditional Medicine Day on 31st of August each year. WHO advocate for strengthening the linkage between traditional medicine and institutionalized care in line with the WHO strategy. We are still battling the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO recognizes that traditional, complementary and alternative medicine has many benefits when properly harnessed with. Therefore, researches into our traditional medicines is an effort in the right direction”. Dr. Mulombo said.

He noted that WHO Nigeria has taken it up to support the Ministry of Health and in particular the department of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, Complimentary in the review of the Traditional Medicines Policy 2007, review of the Nigeria Pharmacopoeia 2008 and the development of a 5-year strategic plan to implement the new policy and the revised pharmacopoeia.

WHO will continue to provide technical assistance to the TCAM department, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and NAFDAC in improving the quality of medicinal products and ensure the listing of these products in the National Essential Medicines List”. He said.

He added that WHO remains committed to continue supporting the Government of Nigeria in its goal of achieving self-sufficiency in the local production of pharmaceuticals (including Vaccines), traditional medicine and researches.

The Nigerian Minister of State for health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora, while appreciating the roles of modern traditional medicine practitioners in the country, said that the ministry was currently working towards reviewing the traditional medicine policy.

He said that all the measures are aimed at strengthening resources for delivery of quality and safe traditional medicine.

The minister also said that the Federal Ministry of Health was working in collaboration with international organizations and relevant ministries, departments and agencies to develop traditional medicine in Nigeria, and also ensure the discovery of effective remedies against COVID-19 and all other diseases from the rich, and extensive flora of the country.

Let me seize this opportunity to inform this gathering of the availability of 10 major industrial standards on African traditional medicine, developed by the standards organization of Nigeria, the standards of reference documents to be utilized by traditional medicine practitioners, such as students, manufacturers of herbal medicine and our products.

This is aimed at providing safe, quality, official traditional medicines for both our consumption and export standards that could be assessed by the public”. He said.

While delivering his keynote address on the commemoration of the 2021, African Traditional Medicine Day,
Professor of Pharmacognosy, Prof. Maurice Iwu, Nigerian said that Nigeria should not be compared with other African countries, on Traditional Medicine, rather they should be compared with countries like India and China.

The prof. said that there were three essential elements of African Traditional Medicine, which Nigeria has like the active medicinal substance, which, he said maybe plants, soil, insects or animal parts.

The spiritual forces, including benevolent forces, ancestors, the gods and God; and
The human spirit which includes the healer and the patient himself,” he explained.

He said that plants play very important roles in ATM and form the main active ingredients of the remedies dispensed by the medicine men and women, with the ancillary ingredients or excipients.

Plants also perform other very important functions in the healing processes. As sources of vital energy, and in some sense a participatory entity, rather than a lifeless object used in healing. Traditional African medicine therefore presents an enigma to most western trained minds,” he noted.

He also called for the mainstreaming of ATM into the country’s national healthcare system.

Lack of effective communication between practitioners and patients; use of poor quality, adulterated or counterfeit products;Unqualified practitioners; misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to use effective conventional treatments when necessary” He added.

Similarly, a former acting Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Anthony Elujoba, disclosed that in an assessment by the West Africa Health Organization(WAHO), on the ladder of the institutionalization of ATM, Nigeria came second position with 87 percent next to Ghana with 93 percent.

Elujobo who is a professor of Pharmacognosy at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the university noted that Ghana came first because they had three significant things in place, Bachelor of Science degree in ATM, Traditional Medicine Council bill, while they understood with their Medical Doctors.

“I see no reason why Nigeria should not come first as the giant of Africa, but, looking at what led to Ghana coming first is what we can replicate in Nigeria,” he said.

African Traditional Medicine. ATM involves diviners, midwives, and herbalists.

The 2021 Traditional Medicine Day theme is “The Potential Contribution of Traditional Medicine to COVID-19 Response”.

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