NHW: Is there a role for traditional medicine in the Nigerian health sector?

4 October, 2018

Interesting article from Nigeria Health Watch, following from our recent traditional medicine discussion on HIFA...

Extracts and comment below. Full text here: https://nigeriahealthwatch.com/is-there-a-role-for-trado-medicine-in-the...

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“Immediately they fall sick they consult the oracle to tell them what is causing that illness and proffer a traditional remedy.” - Healthcare Worker, Benue state.

Mallam Salisu Mohammed is a traditional medicine practitioner plying his trade in Minna, the capital city of Niger State. Popularly known as ‘Dr. Salisu’, his traditional medicine centre is somewhat modernized, made of two rooms. One has a seat and a table just like a doctor’s consulting room where Salisu sees his patients. The other room serves as a sort of medicine storage room where his 7 apprentices observe his practice and produce whatever ‘medicine’ Salisu requests. Patients wait in a long veranda and Salisu says he sees more than 150 of them every day. “People come for different reasons; malaria, diabetes, hypertension, erectile dysfunction and others”, he says. At 10am on the day the Nigeria Health Watch team visits, six women are already waiting to see Salisu. At his centre, located in the densely populated Unguwan Daji Area of Minna, more women visit than men, coming in for mostly menstrual problems, their children’s’ illnesses and sometimes, inability to conceive, he said.

The practice of traditional medicine is deeply rooted in the culture of many Nigerians and still remains the first port of call for many when they fall sick...

So why, despite the availability of modern medicine, do traditional medicines still enjoy so much popularity and patronage? Is it culture, affordability or convenience? The Nigeria Health Watch team hit the streets of Abuja to ask people why they still use traditional medicines. From the vox pop below, public perception seems to show that the main reasons why Nigerians patronise tradition medicines are quality, affordability and accessibility, the three cardinal points of Universal Health Coverage. Belief also plays a key role in the public’s decision to choose traditional medicine over orthodox medicine...

At the very least, systems should be put in place that subject their medicines to safety tests before they can be administered to their patients.

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Comment (Neil PW): The reasons for use of traditional medicine are said to be 'quality, affordability, accessibility'. Affordability and accessibility are relatively easy to assess, but quality is a more complex concept with many meanings. There is a difference, for example, between perceived and actual quality (effectiveness), which in turn is closely related to belief.

It would be interesting to see more describption of the questions and answers. Also, is anyone on HIFA aware of previous research on people's attitudes to traditional medicine in Nigeria (or other countries)?

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Information for Citizens, Parents and Children:

http://www.hifa.org/projects/citizens-parents-and-children

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (www.dgroups.info), which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org