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February 26

AFRICAN TRADITIONAL MEDICINE DAY

The first African Traditional Medicine Day is to be commemorated in the 46 states of the African Region of the World Health Organization on 31 August 2003 under the theme "Traditional Medicine: Our Culture, Our Future."

This indication was given Friday in Brazzaville, Congo, by the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Ebrahim Malik Samba.

The decision to observe an African Traditional Medicine Day follows the adoption in 2000 of a resolution on Promoting the role of traditional medicine in health systems: A Strategy for the African Region, by the Region's health ministers requesting the institution of the Day on the WHO calendar for observance in Member States.

Commemoration of the Day this year, and in subsequent years, will coincide with the date (31 August 2000) on which the ministers of health adopted the relevant resolution at the 50th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Dr Samba explained that the choice of theme for the inaugural celebration of the Day was designed to further raise awareness and the profile of traditional medicine in the Region, as well as promote its integration into national health systems.

"It is common knowledge that more than 80 per cent of our people depend on traditional medicine for their heath care needs," Dr Samba said. "The celebration of the African Traditional Medicine Day for the first time this year will further serve to emphasize the significance of this health-enhancing resource in the lives of our people". He added: "Traditional medicine is our culture; it is our heritage. It occupies pride of place in Africa because it is affordable and easily accessible; it is also socially sanctioned and culturally acceptable.

"All we need do now is to address issues of safety, quality, efficacy, standardization and intellectual property rights. A major challenge for us now is to institutionalize and integrate traditional medicine into our mainstream health care delivery systems."

The image and profile of traditional medicine received a boost in Africa in 2001 when the continent's Heads of State declared in Abuja, in April 2001, that research into traditional medicine should be made a priority. They followed up this declaration with another, in Lusaka in July 2001 , designating the period 2001 - 2010 as the Decade of African Traditional Medicine. Traditional Medicine is one of the priority programmes of AFRO which, in 2000, developed the above mentioned regional strategy document. The development and adoption of the African Regional Strategy was complemented by the launch, in 2002, of the first global strategy on Traditional Medicine by WHO.