South Africa News

Covid-19: Traditional healers want to be included in the fight

Traditional health practitioners (THPs) in KwaZulu-Natal say they want to play a greater role in the fight against Covid-19.

According Thulani Msomi, president of the THP Business Council, says since the pandemic began government had sidelined them despite the role they play in communities.

It is estimated that 80% of South Africans consult traditional healers and there are more than 200 000 in the country. Most of them are based in rural areas. Many South Africans still use traditional medicine for their primary health-care needs.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on Wednesday about the role of traditional health practitioners, Msomi said: “We feel that we are outside the system of government. We are not regarded as ’real’ health workers. We are not provided with PPEs, like other professionals in our sector, we did not receive any funds during the lockdowns like other businesses who were impacted by the pandemic.”

“We want to be involved in the production of these vaccines. We are not against vaccinations,” he added.

In September, a regional expert committee on traditional medicine was set up by the WHO, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs, endorsed protocols for traditional medicine clinical trials.

During the webinar, Professor Nceba Gqaleni, a member of the Presidential Task Team on African Traditional Medicine, said Covid-19 had exposed inequities in the health sector.

Gqaleni said “THPs have not been consulted and their role as health-care workers was not clarified to law enforcement agencies during lockdown. We have to create a new normal by placing indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) at the centre of recovery and reclaiming our health, livelihoods, culture and economy.”

“African traditional medicine is centuries old, it is puzzling why they were not consulted at the beginning to be part of the decision. We need to build in this momentum to build a legacy for IKS within the province,” he said.

Meanwhile, a team of scientists from Germany and the US recently explored the effectiveness of traditional plant medicines in treating severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (Sars-CoV-2) infection.

Their findings reveal that various extracts of two medicinal plants, namely Artemisia annua and Artemisia afra (umhlonyane), can potentially inhibit Sars-CoV-2 replication in vitro without causing any cytotoxicity.


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