Eritrea: Traditional Medicine Research Dissemination Workshop

WHO jointly with MOH had conducted a research dissemination workshop on 30 September 2019 at Orotta hospital conference hall.

Traditional Medicine has been an important part of the culture and tradition of Eritrean people for centuries. Depending on their areas of localities, they are influenced by their various cultural backgrounds and religious inclinations, and they have been able to develop a wide variety of traditional medical practices. This culture has enabled the society to promote health, to guard against illnesses and to cure diseases. However, these practices have been handed over from one generation to the other mostly via oral traditions with no systemic means of documentation which is a great concern for the loss traditional knowledge. As that is the case with most African countries, despite the accessibility of modern medicine to the majority of the Eritrean population, traditional medicine is still believed to be widely accepted and practiced, possibly because of their accessibility, affordability, and acceptability to the local society.

Mr Iyassu Bahta, Director of National Medicine and Food Administration highlighted that ‘WHO and Ministry of Health of Eritrea have moved in the direction of recognizing and guiding traditional medicine practices in the country by taking some notable actions. These are: the establishment of the traditional medicine unit, the formation of a national advisory committee on traditional medicine, endorsement of the national traditional medicine policy, and the development of Green form for reporting traditional medicine related adverse events.’

As mentioned above, the research dissemination workshop, a survey report of knowledge Attitude and Practice (KAP) studies on traditional medicine practitioners, healthcare professionals, and the community was conducted in two Zobas (Gash Barka and Debub), and a KAP of traditional cauterization among patients visiting Massawa hospital were presented.

The event was attended by 82 participants that included Director Generals, higher officials from the Ministry of Health, representatives of UN partners, Traditional Medicine Advisory Committee (TMAC) members, representatives of line Ministries, representatives of professional associations and other relevant stakeholders.

The presentations were followed by a passionate discussion on the contents of the presentations. The participants of the workshop gave their views and comments on both presentations.

It was highlighted in the study that the use of traditional medicine, at least one visit, was found to be at approximately 48% and 39% respectively in Gash barka and Debub, with comparatively less use of traditional medicine in the last year in Gash Barka (at 19%). Females in Gash Barka were found to visit traditional medicine practitioners (61%) more than males (39%).

Although it was highlighted that 81.1% of the respondents in Zoba Gash Barka prioritize conventional medicine over traditional, 50.8% of the respondents in Debub reported that there are safe traditional medicines without negative consequences; such as hot springs (hydrotheraphy); herbal treatment; bone setting and others. Some of the main reasons for use of traditional medicine in Zoba Gash Barka was religious and cultural convictions (44.6%) and effectiveness of Traditional medicine (29.3%).

Moreover, findings of the surveys on the exposure of children to traditional medicine practices was taken as a concern. Uvulectomy, cautery and circumcision are the most widely practiced traditional medicine activities. These findings have however, brought information for the regulatory body to take evidence-based decisions to better the practices of community regarding healthcare.

As highlighted by the Director of National Medicine and Food Administration, the Traditioal Medicine policy document should be supported by legal ground for efficient regulation of the three components of traditional medicine (namely the product, practice and practitioners); finalization of the legal framework, code of ethics and practice are the next priority action points to be dealt with.

Source: World Health Organization. Africa