Being a text of speech delivered by Reverend Father Aslem Adodo at the international virtual summit of Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) titled Migration: Remedies For Covid-19 and the Economy on June 6, 2020
COVID-19: THERE IS A PLANT IN THE BUSH
August 31 is set aside every year by the World Health Organization to celebrate African Traditional Medicne day. Some 17 years ago, the African Union heads of state and Government declared theyear 2000-2010 as the African Decade of African Traditional Medicne. All these show how seriously the African governments and International governments take African Traditional Medicne, at least on paper.
On paper, Nigeria’s health care plan looks impressive and appealing. However, in practice, it has not made much difference in improving the health of the nation. There have always been lots of discussions on how to improve healthcare services in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Hundreds of conferences and health workshops take place almost daily in different parts of the country to discuss ways and means of improving the health of Nigerians. Proposals and recommendations from these conferences, workshops and committees litter the offices of the state and federal ministries of health in Nigeria. It is therefore clear that the Nigerian government is not in short supply of ideas and proposals on how to improve the health of Nigerians.
Fifty years after most countries attained independence, Africans remain the world’s least healthy people. As a group, they are at the bottom of every index of social and economic indicators. Surveys of the use of health services show that fewer Africans are seeking care, partly because fewer services are available at affordable price, and partly because they are dissatisfied with modern health care services. The global income from the herbal medicine business is estimated at over 100 billion dollars yearly. Africa, which has over 70% of the world reserve of medicinal plants growing on her soil, has little or no share in this income. We are surrounded by wealth, yet live in poverty. Indeed, poverty is a threat to world peace. According to a modern philosopher: “when the gap between the poor and the rich widens, the poor cannot sleep because they are hungry, and the rich cannot rest because the poor are awake.”
In Africa, public Heath has been neglected and taken over by biohealth, withitsemphasis on high-tech machines, money and profit. Biotech or,Biohealth, is a new modern form of medicine that focuses almost exclusively on using high-tech machines to diagnose diseases, even before they appear in the body. In Biotech, patients are subjected to endless series of expensive tests, just to detect illnesses that are yet to manifest in the body, or to know the nature of already diagnosed ones. Biotech diverts attention from the question ‘How can people prevent illness?’ to focus on ‘How can they pay for treatment?’
Whereas in the past, people go to the hospital when they feel ill, today everybody is adviced to head for the hospital for sicknesses that they may suffer from in 5 or 10 years’s time. Modern medicinehas abandoned its role as a healthcare provider tobecome a HEALTH SCARE PROMOTER. Fear is a very effective weapon in the armory of modern medicine. The sick go to the hospital because they are afraid of death, and the healthy go to the hospital because thay are afriad of falling sick. One way or the other, we have all become prisoners of fear.
Biohealth is not interested in addressing the disparities in wealth, trade imbalance and rich-poor divine in the world communities. Biohealth turns away from the fact that poverty, unfair trade imbalance, poor sanitation, poor nutrition and unbridled monetisation of public health, is the root cause of health inequality and poor health in the world, especially in Africa.
Biohealth not only treats our diseases, but it often invents diseases and then go ahead to provide the medication to cure its invention. This medicalization of human life, from infancy to adolescence, pregnancy, middle age and old age, partly explains the rapid expansion of the medical enterprise in the past 20 years. It is not a health for all, but rather health for the rich, who make up 1% of world population. Health for all, in the language of modern medical capitalism, means health of the 1% for the 1% and by the 1%.
When we talk about promoting traditional medicine, we are talking about a rediscovery of our traditional African culture of care and concern for one another and for our environment. As we celebrate another African Traditional day this year 2015, I am calling for a new thinking on healthcare management, policy and reform in Africa.I call for a reawakening of the Traditional African approach to health in which the health of an individual could not be separated from the health of a community. Instead of pursuing a ‘healthy lifestyle’ characteristic of modern, individualistic culture, I call for a return to the older wisdom traditions of Africa that corporately valued community-based well-being and harmonious living.
When government wants to make efforts to incorporate traditional medicine into national healthcare services, it forms a committee comprising medical practitioners, health bureaucrats, and civil servants who are not passionate about traditional medicine. The inevitable result is that nothing positive will come out of the committee.
THE WAY FORWARD
- Form a presidential advisory board made up of sincere and knowledgeable healthcare providers from the private sector to advice the government on health reform and health policy in Nigeria.
- Government to recognise traditional medicine as a genuine alternative alongside conventional medicine, and devote 20% of health budget to the development of traditional herbal medicine.
- Form a registration and accreditation agency to register and monitor Traditional medical practice.
- Encourage cultivation of medicinal plants for production of herbal medicines.
- Establish a training school of traditional medicine based on indigenous knowledge, philosophy and African heritage.