Dept of Health to budget for traditional medicine

The traditional-medicines sector will soon be recognised in the department of health’s budget, Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Friday.

Speaking at a traditional-medicine workshop in Benoni, Tshabalala-Msimang said her department will also speed up the process of establishing an interim traditional-health council. ”We hope to establish a council by the end of June. We want to fast-track on this,” she said.

Her department has already established a directorate for traditional medicine, but adjustments are still pending in the department’s budget.

”There is a great deal of literature on traditional medicine in India, the Philippines and China. We need to establish this for African medicine.”

Tshabalala-Msimang said developed countries are also appreciating the value of traditional medicines and alternative practices.

Britain’s Prince Charles has been a supporter of the concept.

Tshabalala-Msimang said Friday’s workshop would offer a great deal on the institutionalisation of the traditional-medicine sector, with input from China, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The meeting heard that China has 32 traditional Chinese medicine universities, offering five- to seven-year courses, and that there are 490 000 registered traditional-medicine practitioners in the country.

India has seven registered traditional-medicine practitioners for every 10 000 people and has supported the sector since independence in 1947.

”Understanding that we are Africans with a particular history dating back several centuries, we need to pay attention to those things that sustained the health of Africans through our history of denied access to health and other basic services.”

She told of growing up as a sickly little girl in an area without a clinic. ”My mother had all these herbs in our garden and I survived. There were no pills, no aspirins, but I survived.”

The workshop ends on Saturday.

On HIV/Aids, where Tshabalala-Msimang’s standpoint is the centre of controversy, she cautioned that some anti-retrovirals can cause cancer. ”We have got to keep all these [side effects] in our minds,” she warned.

She later told the South African Press Association that some people have got cancer from anti-retrovirals, but did not wish to elaborate further. ”Let’s rather stick to [talking about] traditional medicine.” — Sapa

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