Your Excellency, the President of the
Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Ali Hassan Mwinyi,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
The purpose of my brief address to you this morning is to welcome all of you to Arusha. It gives us great pleasure that persons of your high academic and social standing, have responded so well to our call to attend this conference. The distances you had to travel are long: some of you have come all the way from Latin America, Asia and from within the expansive continent of Africa. For this effort, from your side, we say Thank you
We are in Arusha, a town which ranks third among our major municipalities. It is situated in the northern part of Tanzania, near the border with the Republic of Kenya, our good neighbours. This town is exactly midway between Capetown and Cairo, the two Southern and Northern tips of Africa, ft is situated at the foot of Mount Meru and only 50 km from the well known Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The famous Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Parks, known for their high concentration of wildlife, are within a few hours of driving. The indigenous people of the Arusha region are unique, linguistically, and culturally. Within this Region, we have the Khoisan speaking Hadza, who are hunters and gatherers; the Cushitic speaking agricultural Iraqw; the graceful pure pastoralists, the Maasai; the mixed farming Bantu, the Meru, and its town is characteristically cosmopolitan.
This rich variety of geophysical endowments is well repeated when the plant Kingdom is analysed. Our people have a long tradition and experience in dealing with their health problems, by using naturally occurring substances, including medicinal plants. Before the colonial era, these were the only remedies, and were adequate. The colonial period was not only a wasted one for development of traditional medicine, but was also a serious set bade. There is a need to bring back the development of traditional medicine to its original track, and to utilize modern advances alongside it, in order to achieve maximum benefit for our communities.
Tanzania has been striving to move in that direction, with moderate success due to various factors, including economic ones. Our Traditional .Medicine Research Unit is constrained by shortage of qualified personnel and equipment. We still have to develop a clear - cut policy, and implementation strategies. The existing legislation needs revision, but revision must be followed by an informed and committed staff.
It is due to these circumstance that we have found it necessary to pool ideas, and even the meagre resources, with other developing countries, in this common course. I repeat, again, a word of welcome to each one of you, and request you to kindly bear with us, if you will find any inadequacies.
After these brief remarks, may I now invite the Guest of Honour, His Excellency, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Ali Hassan Mwinyi, to give the Opening Address.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Allow me, first of all, to express Tanzania's pleasure and gratitude for the honour and privilege to host this international conference on traditional medicinal plants. It is also a great honour for me personally to be invited to open this important conference.
Before I do so, I wish to take this opportunity to extend a very warm welcome to all our distinguished guests who have travelled a long way to come and share their knowledge and experience with us. We in Tanzania are very happy to have you in our midst. We wish you a happy and successful visit to our country. Please feel at home. KARIBU SANA.
I would also like to express my deep appreciation to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the South Commission for organizing this conference on a subject which is of great interest and importance to all of us in the South. The presence of so many eminent experts and other dignitaries at this conference is a clear testimony of the continued importance of traditional medicine in the South.
As we all know, traditional medicine has for many years, been the main form of treatment of several maladies in many developing countries. But as more and more countries achieved their independence, several governments including that of Tanzania embarked on ambitious programmes to expand modern health services as part of their efforts to improve the quality of life of their people. Those programmes included the expansion and construction of hospitals, health centres, dispensaries and clinics. Efforts to train doctors, nurses and other health service staff were also intensified.
Remarkable progress has been recorded in many developing countries. But the task of providing modern health services in the South is far from being accomplished. Its accomplishment wilt take longer than most of us had expected because the demand for modern health services continues to expand, especially as the population in many of our countries also continues to grow. It will be recalled, for example, that at the time of independence, Tanzania had a population of about 9 million people. Today we are more than 23 million.
But the task of providing modern health services in the South has been made even more difficult by the severe economic crisis which has affected many developing countries. The crisis has greatly undermined the ability of many governments to sustain existing health services, let alone to expand them. As a result of that crisis many hospitals in some of our countries lack essential drugs and equipment, whose prices are rising sharply.
There is a more fundamental factor which needs our close attention. I am sure you know better than I do that modern or allopathic medicine has proved ineffective in the treatment of such maladies as asthma, cancer, heart problems, mental diseases, and now AIDS. Yet evidence does exist that traditional medicine and some medicinal plants do provide hope for the treatment of several maladies, where allopathic medicine has failed. We also know very well that some of the pharmaceutical used in hospitals originate from those medicinal plants which have been traditionally applied by our communities for many years.
All that evidence points to the need for the intensification of research on the exploitation and scientific application of those plants for the benefit of our people. I believe that such research would benefit immensely from the knowledge and practice of those who have been applying the medicinal plants to their patients. It is my sincere hope, therefore, that these engaged in the research on medicinal plants will strive to work in close collaboration and cooperation with prominent traditional medicinemen.
I am confident that the results of the research will not only expand our scientific knowledge of the medicinal plants, but also lead to their optimal utilization in the treatment of many diseases. That will greatly complement the role played by allopathic medicine in the South and reduce the costs of health services, since there is an abundance of medicinal plants in many developing countries. Those important natural resources should be fully exploited for the benefit of the people of the South.
I fully recognize that cooperation among developing countries is essential to ensure the maximum exploitation and utilization of the medicinal plants, abundantly available in the South. Such cooperation is especially important because scientific research on medicinal plants has been going on for a long time in some developing countries. Some have even developed the scientific and technological capacity for the exploitation and utilization of some of those plants.
Cooperation among developing countries in this important field will enhance our collective capacity to identify the most useful medicinal plants available in our respective countries. It will also greatly facilitate an exchange of information and knowledge on their cultivation, processing, distribution and application. Time has, therefore, come for developing countries to establish an organ which wilt bring together the best expertise, which will be charged with the responsibility of coordinating research, monitoring technological developments in the processing of medicinal plants and facilitating the scientific application of traditional medicine. The organ should also look into various legislation which inhibit a broader application of traditional medicine in our societies and recommend measures for correcting them.
South-South Cooperation in the exploitation and application of medicinal plants will also ensure that those natural resources are used for the maximum benefit of the people of the South. As we are all aware the countries of the North have also intensified their search for healing substances from plants which naturally grow in the South. Those countries have the capacity to siphon our natural raw materials at a very low cost and then sell to us the processed products at very high prices.
That is what is happening to our copper, cotton, sisal and other raw materials, which we export to the North at cheap prices. The main cause of our current economic problems is that we have been placed in the perpetual position of exporting cheap raw materials and importing expensive industrial goods from the North. So as the world commodity prices continue to decline, our economic situation also deteriorates.
That could also happen to our medicinal plants. The countries of the North will make every effort to get those plants at very cheap prices and process them in their industries. We will then be placed in the same situation of importing expensive drugs from the developed countries. I call upon the countries of the South to resist those attempts by pooling together their resources and technology in order to strengthen their collective capacity to produce their own drugs from their own plants. That will greatly reduce our independence on the imports of expensive medicine from the developed countries.
By doing so, we will have made a practical contribution to the implementation of our broader objectives for collective self- reliance in the South. Collective self-reliance will not only strengthen our efforts to improve the living conditions of our people, but it will also improve our bargaining power, as we strive to establish more mutually beneficial relationships between the North and the South.
It is my sincere hope, therefore, that this workshop will discuss, among other things, ways and means of strengthening South-South Cooperation in the utilisation of the wide variety of medicinal plants, abundantly available in our countries. I am confident that the recommendations of this workshop will help us move a step forward towards collective self-reliance in this vital sector of health.
I therefore wish you great success in your deliberations.
The South Commission has been working since October 1987 and expects to issue its final Report about the middle of this year. The members are now engaged in working on the wording of that Report. It is because of an important meeting in that connection that I am unable to come personally to your Workshop, to say bow important we regard your undertaking to be.
The South Commission's basic message to the countries of the South is this: Build Self-Reliance, nationally and collectively. The present widespread dependence on the developed countries of the world is inimical to our national independence, and reduces our capacity to fight against our underdevelopment and poverty. It is prejudicial to the right of our peoples to improve their own living standards while developing their own roots and preserving their own culture. We must adopt policies and act in such a manner that we Build Self-Reliance.
National Self-Reliance means using your own resources of people, of natural resources, and of knowledge - to the very maximum, before looking elsewhere for these essential components of development. Collective Self-Reliance means cooperation among the countries of the South on a bilateral, sub- Regional, Regional and Global basis, so that the capacities and resources of the South increase the strength of the South and all its members, and enable it to play its necessary and more equal role in the international economy.
Among the resources which we have is the traditional medicine of the countries of the South. Millions of our people still depend on it. They have insufficient access to what is called 'modern medicine', or they have more faith in the healing methods of their parents and grandparents. It is too often scorned or denigrated. Its practitioners are regarded by the elites as ignorant and dangerous - at least in public, for many of those who most denigrate them consult them in private. And the practitioners of traditional medicine do in fact have considerable botanical knowledge; they are in general aware of the link between the mind and the body.
Of course there are incompetents and con-men active in the field of traditional medicine; the best of practitioners rarely understand the scientific background to the herbs which they use, and usually do not realise the dangers which go along with their cures. The importance of hygiene, and the place which prevention can play in maintaining people's health is rarely part of their expertise. And there are many things which modern medicine can now do which rely upon the capacities of high-technology and advanced scientific research, and which are beyond the capacity of even the wisest traditional practitioner. Finally, there is the reality that to such people the use of their knowledge is their livelihood; they guard that knowledge as a great secret and are often reluctant to share it - especially if they have no security or reward in compensation.
But the reality is that people of my generation are alive today because of traditional medical knowledge. So are millions of people much younger than me. The task is not to ignore or overthrow - much less to denigrate - traditional medicine, but to recognise and develop its potently, and help its practitioners to expand their own knowledge. Our scientists have to get the cooperation of traditional practitioners and of elders in our different areas, so as to combine traditional medicine with modern scientific knowledge and techniques. This can be done: it is being done. Many of those present at this Workshop are doing such work.
If we in the South are to become self-reliant nations and if we are to give good and universal health service to our peoples, we must expand this work and give more emphasis to it. That must be part of our health policy. We must not leave this valuable national resource to be developed only by the great international pharmaceutical companies, who will later charge us large royalties for developments based on our plants and minerals.
On behalf of the South Commission I wish to convey our very good wishes for the success of this International Workshop. May you succeed in sharing knowledge about how to modernise traditional medicine so that it gives the maximum service to our people everywhere, and in promoting it as a vital, large, and respected part of Health for All by the year 2000.
Mr. President of the United Republic of
Representatives of International Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I first of all, Mr. President, thank you most sincerely for the great honour you have done us by gracing, with your presence, the formal opening of this International Conference of the Countries of the South on Medicinal Plants, so generously hosted in Arusha, following the kind invitation of your government. We are well aware of the great efforts that you, as President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization have made to ensure the success of this historic meeting of donor and recipient countries.
We are, therefore, happy to voice to your government, in the presence of this august Assembly, our thanks and deep gratitude for all that you have done to achieve health for all Tanzanians by the year 2000, which is our common social objective. Similarly, we salute the decisive action taken by your government, and especially by the Ministry of Health and Tanzanian communities to control disease, postpone death, promote health, and reserve our common community health.
Finally, Mr. President, may I assure you that I am extremely happy to be here, once again, in the United Republic of Tanzania, to which I consider home and which harbours many happy memories; and I would like also to express to you my deep satisfaction at the excellent cooperative relations that exist between the United Republic of Tanzania and the World Health Organization.
Representatives of International Organizations,
Your presence today at this ceremonial opening is particularly comforting, since it shows very clearly as we are all now aware, in these difficult times, that the effective solution of problems of international cooperation can only be achieved through concerted approaches to socioeconomic development. That progress and development can only result from a collective will to make positive changes in mental attitudes and living conditions. That is why it is desirable, despite significant improvements in coordination in recent years, that additional efforts must be made to clear away the final obstacles to progress in international health cooperation in traditional medicinal plants.
Our organization has already charted our course, the path to our common objectives. This may be found in the resolutions of the World Health Assembly adopted during the past three years (WHA 40th, 33, WHA 41th, 19th and WHA 42nd, 43). In the African Region Assembly, Resolution AFR/RC28/R3 invited member states of the region "to take appropriate steps to ensure the use of essential drugs and traditional medicinal plants so as to meet the basic needs of communities and promote the development of African pharmaceutical industry", while Resolution AFR/RC34TH/R8 1984 invited member states to "prepare specific legislation governing the practice of traditional medicine within the framework of national health legislation and ensure an adequate budget appropriation to allow the effective launching or development of a programme of traditional medicine". I also recall that in February 1976 my predecessor convened the experts of the region to consider the following terms of reference:
(i) To assess the present situation of traditional medicine in the region.
(ii) To identify ways and means of fostering collaboration between traditional and modern medicine.
(iii) To propose material for the working paper of the technical discussions of the twenty sixth session of the regional committee for Africa of WHO.
In November 1979 we organized a workshop in Bamako, Mali, for French-speaking countries on "The Role of Traditional Medicine in the Development of Health Services". In August 1980 a similar workshop was held at Accra, Ghana, for English-speaking countries. The objectives of those two workshops were:
(i) To analyse the experiences of collaboration between practitioners of the two systems of medicine in some African countries.
(ii) To formulate a realistic approach for collaboration between the two systems in order to improve health coverage of the population.
Between 1981 and 1985 five collaborative centres were set up: one in Ghana, another in Mali and two in Nigeria. Their number was increased to five in 1985 with the one in Madagascar. The main responsibilities are:
(i) To compile an inventory of medicinal plants with recommended uses.
(ii) To verify the therapeutic actions attributed to the listed plants, together with their possible undesirable or toxic effects.
(iii) To carry out studies with a view to improving and standardizing of the form and presentation of traditional medicines.
(iv) To collaborate in training research workers desiring to study traditional medicine and in the improvement of the practices of traditional practitioners.
(v) To carry out studies on the rote of traditional practitioners in primary health care.
In July 1984, we organized a consultation on the coordination of activities relating to traditional medicine in the African region, with the various international and regional organizations and agencies concerned. The objectives of that consultation were:
(i) To evaluate activities related to traditional medicine in the African region.
(ii) To propose mechanisms for coordinating work in traditional medicine in the African region, bearing in mind the allocation of responsibilities to the various agencies.
In 1987 the Regional programme created a unit for traditional medicine in Africa. In February 1989, the first meeting of WHO collaborating centres for traditional medicine in the African region was held in Niamey, Niger, with the following objectives:
(i) To identify the priorities of the African region after assessing the current situation in various countries.
(ii) To establish guiding principles of a regional strategy for the use of traditional health technologies in the national primary health care policy.
Finally, it is planned this year to examine the programme on traditional medicine in the course of the fortieth session of the regional committee for Africa.
It may be said that this conference comes at the right time, when we are putting all our strength into the battle to promote primary health care. Our meeting today is a clear indication of our determination to make better use of local resources and recover our freedom and identity through self- sufficiency in matters of health. It is also a way of reaffirming our cultural values. I believe very sincerely in international cooperation, but it has its limits. We should, in future, make use of our own raw materials and our capacities, for local production. But we should also be aware that realism requires us to keep a proper balance between folklore and scientism. Folklore, far from serving the objective that we are pursuing, will give the sceptics a pretext for continuing to doubt the values of our civilization. Scientism has far too long been used as a comforting alibi for a stagnation.
The scenario for African health development adopted by the ministers of health, provides a dynamic framework for the rapid and effective implementation of the primary health care approach, especially two of its components: traditional medicine and medicinal plants. The aim in regard to these plants is not to seek systematically to replace all modern drugs, and still less to bring two types of therapy into opposition, but rather to avoid duplication of efforts in order to make optimal use of available resources, and thus meet the need for accessibility of pharmaceuticals, both from the geographical and financial point of view.
To that end the following themes have been chosen:
(i) Ways and means of cooperation to establish a systematic inventory of plants with their uses and comparative analyses.
(ii) Promotion of plant culture and processing with a view to obtaining stable and standardized galenical preparations that are recognised to be harmless yet effective, while not overlooking the marketing aspects.
(iii) Problems related to ethnobotany and conservation of medicinal plants.
(iv) Resources for implementation, financing, technical and institutional structures and an appropriate legal framework. That is the arsenal without which nothing cam be done.
These are issues that reflect our concerns at the regional office.
This means that you have our full encouragement and support in your difficult but noble duty. I have no doubt of the results of this forum and I am sure that with the cooperation of so many experts we shall be able to meet the challenge.
We are putting our trust in your skills, your devotion to duty and above all your commitment to work for our common objective: "The achievement of health for all by the year 2000".
Your Excellency, Mr. President, I have taken up much of your valuable time in this somewhat extended address, because great things are at stake, and because I know that your hearts lie in self-reliance development. Our approach to health development in the African region follows the same path, and that is what I have tried to show.
I wish the conference on medicinal plants every success. Thank you for your kind attention.