Traditional medicine practice in Ghana – A critical appraisal
By: MICHAEL AKENOO
THAT traditional medicine continues to play a vital role in the health delivery system of the country cannot be disputed. It is in the light of this fact that there should be a critical look at the modus operandi of traditional medicine practice at the moment.
It is significant to note that there is a provision in the Cultural Policy of Ghana published in 2004 on the practice of traditional medicine in the country as follows:
“The state shall commission the compilation of a directory of traditional pharmacopoeia and register all competent traditional health practitioners”.
Besides this policy, there are other requirements that have been spelt out clearly in the Cultural Policy of Ghana for the efficient practice of traditional medicine.
A critical analysis and evaluation of the practice of traditional medicine in the country at the present time shows that a lot of things are going wrong as a result of the lack of implementation of all the provisions that have been made in the Culture Policy of Ghana for the practice of traditional medicine.
For instance, one of these provisions states the following on the practice of traditional medicine in the country: The State shall promote the enactment of legislation to cure and techniques of traditional medicine of Ghana.
It appears the present “filth” and “anything goes” situation in the name of traditional medicine practice in the country is due to the unconcerned attitude and the lack of effective implementation by the authorities concerned of the two provisions that I have mentioned in the foregoing. There is the need therefore to take some actions that are aimed at remedying the present unfortunate situation in traditional medicine practice in the country.
It is a fact that a lot of charlatans have found their way into traditional medicine practice as a quick way of becoming rich. These charlatans exploit the ignorance and unsuspecting Ghanaians who suffer from various illnesses and need medical attention.
In the context of their operation, these charlatans can be classified into four main groups as follows:
1. This group claims its members can cure all diseases including AIDS: and they operate from their homes, shrines or residences.
2. This group claims it can use different kinds of plants or herbs to cure diseases like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, stroke etc and mainly operates at lorry stations, taxi ranks and railway stations.
3. This group is usually found in moving commercial vehicles and Metro Transit buses and other buses marketing their plants or herbs to passengers, telling them about the great potency of their herbs to cure any kinds of diseases.
4. The fourth group moves from place to place or house to house with herbs or plants proclaiming their abilities to heal all kinds of diseases.
By their activities, these charlatans have brought untold miseries to many Ghanaians, and in many cases have caused the untimely deaths of many.
As a result of their spurious and nefarious practices, these charlatans have terribly indented the image of traditional medicine practice as a profession in the country.
To weed out these charlatans and to bring sanity into the health delivery system of the country, I suggest: The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture collaborate to find ways and means of redeeming the image of traditional medicine practices in the country as soon as possible.
To this end, the two Ministries should immediately work out a master action plan with the view to implementing fully and effectively various provisions that have been made in the Cultural Policy of Ghana for the practice of traditional medicine in the country.
The two Ministries should also develop an effective monitoring mechanism and have periodic reviews of the implementation exercise of the various cultural policies concerning traditional medicine in the country.
The health needs of Ghanaians are highly crucial at this time of the country’s onward march towards progress and prosperity and for this reason; the country cannot afford to have sick and unhealthy citizens who will become liabilities to the state by virtue of their poor health status.
Should this unfortunate situation happen, the country will suffer terribly and consequently fail to achieve prosperity and progress.
Finally, I have the conviction that traditional medicine practice as a profession in the country will be greatly enhanced and given a new and positive outlook if what I have suggested in the foregoing which are aimed at eliminating charlatans in traditional are adhered to.
A healthy nation is a sure guarantee for progress and development; and for this reason, Ghana cannot afford to pay the dear price of negligence and lack of serious attention to traditional medicine practice in her health delivery system.
The writer is a theatre critic
Ghanaian Times Page: 13 Saturday, February 7, 2008