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Traditional medicine should be recognised and regulated – expert

Written by Max Matavire

A senior health expert at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) said traditional medicine should be recognised in the country’s health system but should also go through all the required regulatory measures to determine its efficacy and safety.

Professor Fikile Nomvete, a special physician at NMU, was responding to numerous calls from traditional healers in Nelson Mandela Bay who say they are not allowed to operate on the same playing field as western medicine.

In an interview with Health-e News, Nomvete said that “there should be recognition of traditional medicine”.

“It must be regulated and when you do so, you look at the efficacy, safety and accessibility. It must be seen to have equal importance and esteem. Its safety profile must be up to par and  it must be accessible,” said Nomvete.

Phunyeswa Gomomo, a traditional healer from Kariega, formerly Uitenhage, who has been practising traditional medicine for many years, said that she hates stereotypes about traditional medicine.

“People say we [traditional healers] do not have a measurement for dosage, they say we do not know our measurements. They say we just administer herbs without taking note of the quantities. We know exactly what we are doing. We should be recognised,” she said.

“There were no spoons, cups and milli litres when we started practising but we presribed medicine which treated the ill. We know and understand our dosage measurements even when we dont use spoons.We are undermined and looked upon as inferior -this must end. My traditional medicine skills are a gift and our herbs should be treated with the same respect as western medicine,” said Gomomo.

Call for recognition

Gomomo runs a traditional medicine shop and employs another traditional healers.

“It is high time the government recognises us. We also create employment by employing people who work in our medicine shops selling the medicine, we also employ people who go into the bush to dig for medicines and prepare it. We put food on our tables selling herbs and treating the sick,” said Gomomo.

She said her herbs treat stomch cramps, high blood pressure, headaches and other ailments.

Well-known cultural activist Nokuzolo Mndende, said the playing field was not level as traditional healers were chastised and looked down upon as evil and inferior.

“This whole thing is skewed against the traditional healers. We talk of recognition, recognition by who. It’s a pity that anything indigenous is viewed from a western perspective,” said Mndende. – Health-e News

About the author

Max Matavire