News / Africa

    Kenya Considers Policy to Regulate Traditional Medicines

    NAIROBI - The Kenyan government is in the process of drafting a policy to regulate the use of herbal and other medicines prescribed by traditional healers. Arguments for and against regulation - and the contents of the draft policy - reflect many Kenyans’ love-hate relationship with traditional medicines and healers.
     
    The use of plants to treat medical conditions has been an integral part of Kenya’s cultures for millennia, knowledge passed down from generation to generation.
     
    Yet the conventional medical profession and many Kenyans have turned their backs on this rich tradition.
     
    So says herbalist Dr. Maina Mwea. Initially a government pharmacist, Dr. Mwea turned to herbal medicine 20 years ago, a method he says is effective but has long been demonized.

    “If you look back, in 1925 there was an act of Parliament enacted called Cap. 125, which outlawed the practice of traditional medicine and termed it ‘witchcraft.’ Since that time, it has never been reviewed,” said Dr. Mwea.

    But that is about to change. The Kenyan government is drafting a policy that will regulate the practice of traditional medicine.
     
    Dr. Jennifer Orwa is chief research officer at the Center for Traditional Medicines and Drug Research at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, or KEMRI.  “The Ministry of Health will try and put in structures of a council who can be able to regulate the practice. Then there are the conservation issues, which is very important. We have a lot of medicines going out of our country, being sold outside, and then being processed and coming back,” she stated.
     
    Herbalist Dr. Mwea says that, while it is important to regulate the field of traditional medicine, the proposed stringent toxicological and pharmacological clinical trials that traditional healers are required to conduct are too heavy-handed.
     
    “First, the herbalists do not have that type of financial muscle to do it - it takes billions of shillings to run a project into the market. Two, a lot of them also do not have even the knowledge to do that. Three, the government itself, which is proposing these things, they do not even have the facilities,” said Dr. Mwea.
     
    He argues that the successful use of certain plants for thousands of years to treat specific conditions is proof enough of safety.
     
    KEMRI’s Dr. Orwa says the draft policy acknowledges that a traditional drug’s successful long-term use can be evidence of efficacy, as outlined by the World Health Organization.
     
    In her words, the testing requirements are “a little bit mild” and generally do not require nearly a decade of test trials, as is the case with conventional drugs.
     
    Dr. Orwa says she thinks it is no longer true that Kenya’s conventional health-care system rejects the value and richness of traditional medicines.  “So now we have a whole center in KEMRI, which is doing research on traditional medicine and open to talk to traditional healers, and we find a lot of clinicians now appreciating," she noted. "In fact, in a few cases, you find the doctors when they cannot handle, they said, try a healer.”
     
    And that is what has been happening in Dr. Maina Mwea’s clinic. Most of his patients have tried conventional drugs with no success. He says he has a strong client base despite what he says is an underlying bias against traditional medicines.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora