Scientists around the globe have registered and suited up for the worlds’ biggest marathon ever. The first prize will be awarded to the team or company that excels in the relay and incepts an approved vaccine that combats the current COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis is claiming lives at an accelerated speed, on a daily basis around the globe.
On February 6th, 2002, leaders of the various Gambian herbal associations met at the Berending Herbal Center and created the Gambia Herbal Organization (GHO). In the Access Gambia online directory’s’ health services section, three entities are listed in the Alternative Practitioners in Gambia subsection. They are notably:
- Sissoko’s Hablatu Sauda, located on Kairaba Avenue in Serekunda. They are “an alternative remedies practitioner distributing black seeds and honey ‘cure alls’ along with various herbal teas and essential oils”.
- West Africa Pranic Healing Foundation located on Kairaba Avenue in Serekunda. They are an “all over non- medical Prana energy developed by Choa Kok Sui”.
- Yang Jing Chinese Hospital and Pharmacy located on the Palma Rima Road in Kololi. Their services include acupuncture therapy, a Chinese medical dispensary and western medications.
According to Access Gambia, under the Gambian Traditional Medicine and Healing section, the following can be noted:
“In Gambia, traditional medicine is as much part of life as is farming. Many people rely on it more than they rely on Western remedies. The use of traditional remedies is not restricted to particular doctors or healers. Older Gambians, particularly the leaders and elders of a community know how to use certain plants or herbs to facilitate good health…Certain plant products can be purchased at the pharmacy, others are found in the bush. Many feel that there is something that can be gained medicinally from all plants. Therefore, there is an infinite bank of treatments for diseases…Gambia has official legislative/regulatory texts governing the practice of traditional medicine. There is a licensing process for traditional health practitioners and some traditional medical practitioners are involved in Gambia’s’ Primary Health Care Programmes. Compiled below is a partial list of some commonly used products:
- Kalkato Roots with Jambakatango to treat chest infections.
- Seno and Wonko Tree Bark used to treat skin rashes.
- Seno Tree bark Powder used to treat Pruritus Vulvae.
- Seno Tree Leaves with Seno Root Powder to treat abdominal pain.
- Kujunboro Tree Bark to treat Polio.
- Bitter Kola Nut to treat Male Sexual Dysfunctions.”
The Ansadolu Agency’s May 12th, 2020 article states that The Gambia, amongst many other African Nations have received a consignment of the Madagascar Covid Organics (CVO), a herbal tonic that supposedly cures COVID-19.
Madagascar’s’ President, His Excellency Andry Rajoelina donated the herbal tonic to all ECOWAS member states and the Ministry of Health of The Gambia has confirmed receiving their fair share. While some nations have ordered more of the tonics, Madagascar is being scrutinized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for distributing untested remedies without medical supervision. The organization has requested that clinical trials of the herbal drink be conducted before administration to COVID-19 patients. His Excellency Rajoelina has struck back in interviews with France 24 and RFI by saying that they are being targeted by the WHO because the cure was discovered in an African nation.
On August 31st, 2012, The Gambia observed the African Traditional Medicines Day (TRM) at the Kanifing Municipal Councils’ grounds. This was conducted in collaboration with the WHO and the National Traditional Healers Association of The Gambia (TRAHASS). The then Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health for the Gambia, Fatim Badjie, underlined the Gambian government’s commitment to the day which was meant to promote traditional medicine in the African region. He further stated that over 30% of modern medicines were derived in one way or another from medicinal plants. Amongst them figure antimalarials such as Quinine, Artemisinin and Analgesics such as Aspirin. The then WHO Gambia Representatives, Dr. Thomas Sukwa, stated that thanks to the financial support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the following had been achieved:
- Increased Traditional Medicine Policies within Countries: From 8 in 2000 to 39 in 2010.
- Emergence of National Medicine Strategy Plans and Code of Ethics for the Traditional Health Practitioners: From 0 to over 18 between 2000 and 2010.
- Countries Adapting TRM Regulatory Frameworks: From 1 in 2000 to 28 in 2010.
- Increase in national Traditional medicine Programmes: From 10 in 2000 to 24 in 2010.
Dr. Sukwa further stated the following had been achieved, thanks to the WHO, in The Gambia:
- The development of a traditional medicine policy in 2015.
- The elaboration of a national strategy plan to guide the implementation of the national policy.
- The finalizing of a code of ethics for traditional healers to regulate the practice of traditional healing practices.
- The registration of all traditional healers in the country which led to the inception of TRAHASS.
- The provision of logistical support to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare thus enabling it to strengthen its traditional medicine unit.
Many initiatives have been taken by the authorities, institutions and leaders in our communities regarding this sector. Nonetheless, how formalized and synchronized have the Gambian traditional medical practitioners become over the years? Could we be the next on the Africa continent to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 crisis with our ancestral methods of healing? The clock is ticking as a second wave could be prevented thanks to the “Herbal Warriors” that we have inherited over the decades.