African Traditional Medicine Day Date in the current year: August 31, 2024

African Traditional Medicine Day African Traditional Medicine Day is celebrated annually on August 31. It was established by the World Health Organization to honor the importance of traditional medicine for African population and advocate for its integration into healthcare systems.

The term “traditional African medicine” refers to various traditional medicine disciplines that have evolved on the African continent, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. They typically combine indigenous herbalism and African spirituality: practitioners reach a diagnosis through traditional means and prescribe treatment that usually consists of an herbal remedy.

Like all traditional medicine practices, African traditional medicine is not evidence-based, and its inappropriate use can have negative or even dangerous health effects. However, about 80% of population in Africa still relies on traditional medicine for their basic health needs. In many parts of Africa, it is the only healthcare service that is available, accessible and affordable to local population in rural areas.

This is why instead of denouncing traditional medicine, African countries should consider recognizing and institutionalizing it, which includes introducing formal training for traditional health practitioners in order to involve them in official healthcare services and encouraging traditional medicine research. For example, some pharmaceutical companies are already looking into the healing effects of the most widely used medicinal plants to identify bioactive agents responsible for these effects and use them in their products.

African Traditional Medicine Day has been observed every August 31 since 2003. It commemorates the adoption of the Regional Strategy on Promoting the Role of Traditional Medicine in Health Systems at the 50th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in 2000. The main goals of the observance are to highlight the importance of traditional medicine for much of Africa’s population and to encourage African governments to support research into traditional remedies and find ways to integrate traditional medicine into their healthcare systems.

Since the establishment of African Traditional Medicine Day, the implementation of regional strategies and plans of action to promote traditional African medicine has borne its fruit. According to a report that WHO published on African Traditional Medicine Day 2022, more than 40 African countries are committed to develop national traditional medicine policies, up from only eight in 2000.

Steps that have been taken by various African countries to regulate traditional medicine and integrate it into national health systems include training of traditional health practitioners and developing legal frameworks for their practice, funding traditional medicine research and development, implementing guidelines and protocols to access the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional remedies, encouraging large-scale cultivation of medicinal plants, establishing facilities for the local manufacture of herbal medicines, integrating traditional medicine into health sciences curricula, and more.

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