TRADITIONAL Medical Practitioners Council (TMPC) Board Chairperson, Mr Friday Chishanyu says there is need for government to invest as well as provide infrastructure for traditional medicine training amidst indications that not less than 80 percent of Zimbabwe’s population rely on traditional medicines.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview on the side-lines of the a traditional medicines symposium in Harare, Mr Chishanyu said traditional medicine could play a pivotal role in eliminating some health challenges the country is battling with as it has some proven and workable solutions which have been in existence since time immemorial.
“The Act is there, the government made a very good foundation but like what other countries have, their government have done they availed resources for implementation of these policies. As Zimbabwe we have the working documents but we lack resources for implementation so there is need for government to make enough resources available to train and educate traditional medicine practitioners in various areas.
“Government should invest by allocating infrastructures, allocate resources, and skilled manpower to educate traditional medical practitioners together with modern practitioners to avoid confusion,” said Chishanyu.
He added that investing in training institutions for traditional healers was a huge investment as would cut the import bill on medicines heavily.
“In traditional medicine practice, we talk of three things, there are traditional pharmacologists, and these are spirit mediums who are sources of information on medicinal plants and diseases. We have also herbalists who have acquired the knowledge through training or studies, we have also another category of people who would have gotten that knowledge from their social groups.
“If we are to commercialise traditional medicines, we need government to set up institutions of training as well as infrastructure just as is the case with other countries. Not at ministry level because ministry is also getting insufficient resources. Development of traditional medicines has to become the government responsibility because 80 percent of the people are relying on traditional medicines.”
He also implored the ministry of health to partner with the ministry of environment to ensure the environment is protected so that there won’t be massive depletion of vegetation which is the major source of traditional medicines.
Meanwhile, health and child care minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa said government was working to reinvigorate traditional medicines practices in a bid to integrate modern medicine and traditional medicine practice.
“If you go to other countries, they now have Universities offering traditional medicine training, we don’t want our local traditional healers to join existing schools but to have their own institutions which offer specific studies in those areas.
“We also would want treasury to increase funding towards traditional healing as the current allocation is still very low,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
Minister Parirenyatwa added that there was need to research on the impact of traditional medicines so as to ascertain their use and medicinal composition.
There is a perception in Christian societies as Zimbabwe that traditional medicine is synonymous to witchcraft and Satanism but traditional healers who attended the symposium said this was a myth which could only be dispelled by offering traditional medicines training at institutions of higher learning.
As of 2016, Zimbabwe had about 1069 traditional health practioners, 13 traditional medicine organisations, 12 herbal clinics, 14 faith based organisations, 2 herbal medicine wholesalers, 3 herbal gardens and 6 complementary and alternative medicines training institutions. However, he Traditional Medical Practioners’ Act was promulgated in 1981, since then several changes have occurred in the social-economic and health service delivery landscape