Africa should spur herbal medicine safety, value women

Accra (Ghana) – Africa needs to develop standards to assure safety and benefit of its herbal medicines, says Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, president of Mauritius. According to the World Health Organisation, 80 per cent of the world’s population depend on medicinal plants for their primary healthcare.

Speaking during the Center for Pharmaceutical Advancement and Training (CePAT) awards for 2017 in Ghana, last week (14 January), Gurib-Fakim also paid tribute to African women “for their relentless effort towards the promotion of traditional [herbal] medicines”. CePAT is the US Pharmacopoeial Convention capacity building program site based in Ghana.

“African women have been at the centre of the continental developmental agenda but their contributions have rarely been valued and recognised,” she says.

Gurib-Fakim, who was honoured with CePAT Honours Lifetime Achievement Award, says herbal medicines have been the mainstay of economies of Africa.

CePAT honours, which are biennial awards launched in 2014 by the US Pharmacopoeial Convention’s CePAT, acknowledges valuable contributions of African female agents of change and celebrate their contribution in global health.

The other award recipients were Gugu Nolwandle Mahlangu, director-general of Zimbabwe Medicines Control Authority, Malebona Precious Matsoso, director-general of the South Africa’s National Department of Health, a and Clavenda Bright-Parker, former head of Liberia’s Medicines and Health Product Regulatory Authority. They were honoured with Acknowledge, Celebrate and Empower Award.

The USP-CePAT mission is to build a strong, sustainable global health workforce to meet Africa’s needs. That goal can only be accomplished by the full participation of women at all levels, from technical positions to leadership,” says Emily Kaine, USP senior vice president for global health, in a statement.

According to Gurib-Fakim, indigenous medicine remains the most important form of treatment, and culturally accepted practice of a diverse local health system yet African herbal medicine relies mainly on wild harvested plants with sustainability causing concern.

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By Ochieng’ Ogodo