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Establishing herbal units in all government hospitals

BY: Daily Graphic
Prof. Duncan (left) with the newly elected executive members of Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association swearing the oath of office. Picture: EBOW HANSON
Prof. Duncan (left) with the newly elected executive members of Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association swearing the oath of office. Picture: EBOW HANSON

Ghana relies largely on Western medicines to support its healthcare delivery efforts.

But lately, many people have resorted to the use of traditional herbal medicines to supplement those imported.

There is no denying the fact that traditional herbal medicines have been very efficacious especially for people with fractured bones such as footballers, who could not be healed with Western medicines.

It is in recognition of the efficacy of the traditional herbal medicine that research institutions such as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine at Akuapem Mampong, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of the University of Ghana and the University of Cape Coast are seriously engaged in research into herbal medicine to fill the void and increase the use of traditional medicine in the country.

Last week, the President of the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (GHAFTRAM) Prof. Samuel Ato Duncan, appealed to the government through the Ministry of Health to increase the number of herbal units in health facilities from the current 55 to cover all government hospitals. (Refer to Thursday, November 24, front page of the paper).

Prof. Duncan made the appeal at the swearing-in of the new executive of GHAFTRAM.

We at the Daily Graphic consider the appeal by Prof. Duncan as timely and long overdue as this will not only expand health coverage but go a long way to make effective health care accessible in the country. There are so many traditional medicines that can be used for various purposes. The Nim tree used to cure malaria, for instance, readily comes to mind.

According to Prof. Duncan, traditional medicine can take care of cancer, kidney diseases, viral infections and many other diseases, with minimal side effect. We believe if given the needed push and support, traditional health care can help in the attainment of quality healthcare delivery, reduction of unemployment, creating wealth and stimulating socio-economic activities within the value chain.

The time, in our view, has come for us as a country to explore the area of traditional herbal medicines to supplement those imported. After all, these herbal medicines are known to have been hostile to pathogens and, therefore, able to fight viruses, bacteria, worms, bugs among others.

Our conviction is based on the fact that unlike in the past when there was no scientific method to measure the efficacy of the herbal medicines, proper scientific data and guiding parameters are now being developed and the country’s herbal medicine will be comparable to any other on the globe.

As estimated by Prof. Duncan, if gold, cocoa and oil had failed in turning around the economic fortunes of the nation, traditional herbal medicine has the potential to ‘fit into that shoe’ and deliver the needed goods.

The vigorous use of traditional medicine can also reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births to attain Sustainable Development Goal 3.

Periodically, the globe is hit with one pandemic or the other, the latest being COVID-19 and the Marburg virus. In preparation for any pandemic and to fight any related health issues, the country imported $ 226.57 million pharmaceutical products in 2019.

With these in mind, we would like to add our voice to the renewed appeal by the President of GHAFTRAM, while urging the executive body to engage the various stakeholders in the areas of medicine, science, technology, research and entrepreneurship to brainstorm and map out effective strategies towards the implementation of making traditional medicines available and accessible in the hospitals.

As our elders say, “one hand cannot hold the horn of a bull and a Baobab tree.” The collaboration with stakeholders, we believe, will remove the fear associated with the use of herbal medicines, and the erroneous impression about the product and encourage patronage.

The importance of herbal medicines cannot be underestimated. We need therefore to remain steadfast and resolve to ensure their full integration into the healthcare system.