The Nigerian Government has over the years embarked upon variousefforts to foster the growth and integration of Traditional Medicine into the Nigerian health care system but a number of challenges have so far militated against the success of this endeavor, including but not limited to:
- The absence of a single cohesive and coherent national policy and regulatory framework for a broad based national implementation and practice of traditional medicine.
- Lack of a nationally accepted adequate mechanism for quality control and standardization of Traditional Medicine products;
- Inadequate support for research and development
- Lack of preservation and protection of indigenous knowledge
- A general and abiding mistrust between practitioners of conventional medicine and of traditional medicine as a result of decades of disregards of traditional medicine by the upper echelons of the Nigerian society.
Presently, the practice of traditional medicine in Nigeria is being suppressed and disempowered. The fractious nature of existing regulations and institutions, and the lack of sustained support from the Federal Government has further negated the integration of traditional medicine into the health care system. It is therefore not just sufficient to recognize Traditional Medicine but self-sustaining and empowered structures and a system must be provided for its effective institutionalization. The intention must then be to allow for the development and enrichment of Traditional Medicine in Nigeria as a distinct system within the formal health care sector in Nigeria, equal in status to allopathic medicine as is the case in countries such as China and India, and more recently, South Africa.
Nigeria, as a member of the OAU and one of the economic giants of Africa should have led the way in the implementation of the EMRO tools especially considering the fact that Nigeria already has a thriving traditional medicine industry. In comparison, South Africa has not only implemented these tools, but she has passed legislation fully embracing the integration of traditional medicine into mainstream health delivery system.
Nigerian Traditional practitioners, going by WHO statistics, are taking care of and treating up to 120 million Nigerians. Yet there is no functional school or teaching hospital where the medicines used by these practitioners can be scientifically assembled, documented and taught for present and future generations.
PLAN OF ACTION
In July 2001 during the Summit of the OAU Heads of State and Government held in Lusaka, Zambia, the OAU Decade for African Traditional Medicine was declared to cover the period of 2001 to 2010. WHO/AFRO provided technical support to OAU and Member States during the declaration of the Decade. The OAU Decision is a crucial political recognition of African Traditional Medicine and signifies tremendous support for its rational development, improvement and integration into public health care system in the region.
The timing of the OAU Decision is unique too. This is the time that the developed countries have witnessed resurgence in the use of natural-based products. For example a recent survey showed that 43% of the top 150 prescription drugs in the USA originated from natural sources (phytopharmaceuticals). Similarly, there is a global upsurge in the use of multi-component standardized plant extracts (phytomedicines).
A survey of comparative international practices and policies with regard to the institutionalization of traditional Medicine shows that certain common trends can be identified . These include:
- Official support for acceptance and recognition of traditional medicine in the formal medicine in the formal health sector often through a national focal point such as an institute.
- Establishment of a system to regulate, register and license Traditional Health practitioners and the provision of formal training of such practitioners.
- The establishments of a system to develop, regulate and register Traditional Medicine to ensure safety, quality and efficacy, including scientific research.
- The development of a national pharmacopoeia or the updating of existing ones as part of the regulatory system.
- Collaboration with other countries and the World Health Organization in order to exchange information and promote policies and regulation according to international standards.
OBJECTIVE OF THE PLAN OF ACTION
The main objective of the Plan of Action is the recognition; acceptance, development and integration of Traditional Medicine by all Member States into the public health care system in the region by 2010
Expected Outcomes of the Decade (2001 – 2010)
- Sensitization and popularization of Traditional Medicine in all Member States.
- Adoption of National Policy on Traditional Medicine.
- Establishment of legal frameworks and legislation on Traditional Medicine by all Member States.
- Adoption by Member States of WHO/AFRO and EMRO tools for institutionalizing traditional medicine in health systems.
- Establishment of permanent structure at the Ministry of Health to implement Traditional Medicine programs in all Member States.
- Inauguration of a National Board of Traditional Medicine to regulate Traditional Medicine Practice and its products.
- Adoption of National Policy on Access to Biodiversity and Protection of
- Traditional Medical Knowledge (AU Model Law).
- Establishment of centers of excellence/WHO Collaborating Centers for research and development of traditional medicines used for the treatment of priority diseases.
In furtherance of the OAU Plan of Action:
The Traditional Medicine Bill which is the key to the legal practice of and integration of Traditional Medicine in Nigeria has been pending in the National Assembly since 2004. There is an urgent need for support from the Federal Government to get this bill reviewed up to existing global standards, passed and implemented. As a member state of the OAU and a signatory to the Decade of Traditional Medicine Lusaka Summit, Nigeria is lacking in its global responsibility as a pace setter by failing to implement the stated objectives of the Summit.
In line with the stated objectives above and to avoid the previous pitfalls that have bedeviled the development of Traditional Medicine, we humbly request that the Federal Government revive and re-constitute the moribund Presidential Initiative Committee (P.I.C.) for the promotion and commercialization of Traditional Medicine in Nigeria. This committee will also have the primary task of mid-wifing the passage of the Traditional Medicine Bill and secondly, to collate and set forward a cohesive plan of implementation of the Lusaka Summit objectives.
The potential of Traditional Medicine in Nigeria cannot be over-estimated in terms of revenue generation and employment generation. It is a fact that, if properly handled and implemented, the revenue generated by Traditional Medicine can rival that from crude oil, as evidenced by the enormous revenue generation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an industry that has grown 20 percent annually in the past decade. With total earnings of 95 billion yuan (about 11.8 billion U.S. dollars), the TCM industry accounted for more than a quarter of China's overall medical industry in 2005. The Chinese government has also invested 740 million yuan (92.5 million U.S. dollars) in the Traditional Chinese Medicine research sector (TCM) over the past five years.
Objective of the Plan of ActionThe main objective of the Plan of Action is the recognition; acceptance, development and integration of Traditional Medicine by all Member States into the public health care system in the region by 2010.
Expected Outcomes of the Decade (2001 – 2010)
•Sensitization and popularisation of Traditional Medicine in all Member States.
•Adoption of National Policy on Traditional Medicine.
•Establishment of legal frameworks and legislation on Traditional Medicine by all Member States.
•Adoption by Member States of WHO/AFRO and EMRO tools (World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa & World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean) for institutionalising traditional medicine in health systems.
•Establishment of permanent structure at the Ministry of Health to implement Traditional Medicine programmes in all Member States.
•Inauguration of a National Board of Traditional Medicine to regulate Traditional Medicine Practice and its products.
•Adoption of National Policy on Access to Biodiversity and Protection of Traditional Medical Knowledge (AU Model Law).
•Establishment of centres of excellence/WHO Collaborating Centres for research and development of traditional medicines used for the treatment of priority diseases.
•Creation of enabling political, economic and regulatory environment for the development of local production and for cultivation and conservation of medicinal and aromatic plants.
•Promotion of laboratory and clinical evaluation, development, local production and marketing of standardized traditional medicines.
•Registration of standardized traditional medicines in the National Essential List of Traditional Medicines.
•Prescription, rational use and monitoring of standardized traditional medicines in health care systems in both public and private sectors.
With the expiration of the deadline for the implementation of the AU resolution, most African countries including Ghana and South Africa have fully complied. A visit to Ghana would confirm that Traditional Medicine clinics and hospitals are operating side by side with the allopathic counterparts and citizens have a choice of what health facilities to use as had been the practice in countries like China, India and Japan for centuries. Unfortunately, there is no visible evidence of Traditional Medicine practice in Nigeria. This is a gross violation of the treaty signed in 2001 by all African heads of state. For over ten years, Nigeria had not even established a legal framework for this project and in technical terms, the practice of herbal medicine is not supported by any known law and by extension, it is illegal . It is however being tolerated as Nigerians who practise Traditional Medicine are not being prosecuted for committing criminal offence.
In the concluding part of this article, coming up later, we will present to the readers, the efforts being made by concerned stakeholders to establish a model clinic to demonstrate the relevance of traditional medicine in Nigeria and provide an alternative choice for people who are interested in solving their health problems using the Nigerian Traditional Medicine and also use it as demonstration to the Federal Ministry of Health that collaboration in replicating the model clinics across the country could jumpstart the effort to establish traditional medicine on a firm footing in Nigeria.