KIGALI - The Ministry of Health is currently bringing together some necessary guidelines to formalise traditional medicine and health practitioners, according to an official in the ministry.
Several documents that include the national policy on traditional medicine, rules and regulations and strategic plan, have been put together to facilitate the streamlining of traditional medical practices in the country.
“After getting a nod from WHO, we have embarked on organising these traditional doctors because they have earned public credibility for improved services and in some cases, better than conventional doctors,” said Denis Victor Nkundineza, the head of the traditional medicine department in the ministry.
“Much as we don’t have a lot of control over the practitioners, traditional medicine has proved to have fewer side effects compared to conventional medicine partly because most medicinal products are diluted with water,” Nkundineza added.
Nkundineza said that the available documents will help traditional medicine and health practitioners to become professionals.
He said that a committee has been set up to facilitate the establishment of a national council of traditional doctors.
This follows a national policy whose implementation started in 2007. Meanwhile, the ministry of health has urged traditional medicine practitioners to form cooperatives.
According to Nkundineza, some of the traditional doctors in cooperatives have been given provisional authorisation to practice but are yet to be given operational licenses.
Nkundineza said that by WHO standards, when at least three people in any community testify of having been healed by any herbal medicine, this medicine is recognized.
He, however, said that in Rwanda, such medicine is only accepted after at least 16 people testify.
He noted that standard laws and regulations have also been put in place to contribute towards governing activities related to traditional medicine and promoting individual and collective intellectual property rights.
“Quality assurance of herbal medical products is a shared responsibility of manufacturers and the regulatory body. The National drug regulatory authority has to establish guidelines on all elements of quality assurance,” Nkundineza said.
According to WHO, about 70% of the world population use traditional (natural) medicine and indigenous knowledge to satisfy healthcare needs.
It is believed that this number is higher in sub-Saharan Africa because many people prefer traditional medicine to conventional medical treatment.