According to the Federal Government of Nigeria, 80 percent of Nigerians use traditional medicine as a primary form of health care. Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Tunji Alausa, disclosed this on August 31, 2023, in Abuja at the commemoration of the 2023 African Traditional Medicine (ATM) Day. It was themed “The Contribution of Traditional Medicine to Holistic Health and Well-being for All.” Represented by the Director of Human Resources Management at the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Hassan Salau, the minister said that traditional medicine was accessible, culturally acceptable, and trusted by a large number of people.
He said that Nigeria had been observing the ATM Day for the past two decades with activities for awareness creation and promotion of appropriate use and practice of traditional medicine in the country. With the number of people in the rural population using traditional medicine as a primary form of health care, Alausa noted that traditional medicine has made an invaluable contribution to the health and well-being of all. As well, the theme sums up the essence of Nigerian commitment to recognizing and harnessing the rich heritage of African traditional medicine.
Tinubu will prioritize a universal health coverage plan.
Importantly, Alausa said that as Nigeria celebrates the day, the nation must acknowledge the role of traditional medicine in many lives and its connection to our holistic health and well-being. He revealed that studies show that traditional medicine use in Nigeria is as high as 81.6 percent. The trend is not expected to decline in the near future, especially in the face of the predicted increase in the global burden of diseases. Meanwhile, he noted that the agenda of President Bola Tinubu will bolster the economy by prioritizing Universal Health Coverage which will address the nation’s healthcare challenges.
Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it covers the full continuum of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care across the life course. This is very important because as of June 2023, the agency revealed that about two billion people are facing catastrophic or impoverishing health expenses.
Government approach to traditional medicine in Nigeria.
In his words, “The healthcare plan will also focus on encouraging and improving funding for local research of new drugs and vaccines.” This is as it has been a well-established fact that many medicines have their origin from herbal medicine which is a form of traditional medicine. He said that the government’s approach to optimizing the strengths of traditional medicine will also focus on favorable policies, institutional and political support, rich biodiversity, qualitative data, scientific research, and the use of innovation to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to UHC and sustainable development.
They will also be guided by respect for the country’s indigenous resources and intellectual property rights. He said that if the legislative chambers passed the bill for the establishment of the Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine Council of Nigeria, the ministry would regulate the affairs of the council in the country. Also speaking at the event, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said that the potential of traditional medicine, in terms of research, local manufacturing, and commercialisation, remains untapped. Her message, which was read by the WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, noted that member states have to scale up efforts to implement evidence-based traditional medicine approaches to achieve the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and promote health and well-being for everyone at all ages.
Moeti urged member states to scale up efforts.
She urged member states to apply local knowledge, science, technology, and innovation to unlock the contribution of traditional medicine to advancing planetary health and people’s well-being. She said that governments should establish a high-level consultative mechanism with indigenous knowledge holders to guarantee their full participation and consultation in adopting and implementing relevant policies and actions associated with biodiversity management and traditional knowledge. They should also facilitate effective integration of traditional medicine into national health systems contributing to achieving UHC and all health-related SDGs. Finally, where appropriate, member states should redefine laws, policies, and health services to enable holistic and relevant decisions as well as seamless choices with a transformative focus on prevention, maintenance, and primary healthcare.