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Monday 28th May 2018

Congo herbalists want recognition

19th June 2007

Authorities in the Republic of Congo are using traditional herbal medicine to boost healthcare availability.


Health officials say that, to be integrated into the government-backed healthcare system, traditional medicine must first subject itself to quality control and testing, as well as sharing its know-how with the conventional medicine system.

New research projects are planned, to quantify the effectiveness of traditional Congolese remedies. The government also hopes to weed out 'quack' practitioners from genuine traditional healers who get results.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is backing the bid to integrate traditional medicine into healthcare systems.

Ray Mankélé, WHO's adviser on essential drugs, said collaboration between practitioners of traditional and conventional medicine was one of the priorities of the WHO regional strategy.

"This strategy aims to integrate traditional medicine into the curative services as it constitutes an important recourse for our populations," he said.

Modern health services are often unavailable to most Congolese because they cost too much. Many rural dwellers consult traditional healers and resort to medicinal plants for their health problems.

In 2003, WHO estimated that up to 80% of the people in Africa used traditional medicine for primary healthcare. In 2002, it launched a programme aimed at developing guidelines for the standardisation and methodological procedures for the evaluation of traditional medicines.

Experts point to possible benefits from collaboration between the two forms of medical practice.

One local group, Health and Nature, which is a member of the federation of traditional practitioners in Brazzaville, promotes traditional practitioners by inviting them to talk about the benefits of medicinal plants, which they see as natural and easily available resources not to be wasted.

But experts say the problem with traditional medicine is that it is difficult to define clear criteria to determine efficacy.

Maixent Hanimbat, chairman of the Forum for Good Governance and Human Rights, called for a structure that made it possible to define recognition criteria for a good practitioner.

Antoinette Onongo Bikani, president of the association of Congolese female traditional therapists (AFTC), said quacks were a problem, but that awareness of the correct way to treat and store the traditional herbs was also lacking in her profession.

She said the government recognised traditional medicine, but clear legislation giving practitioners a legal status was also needed.


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