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Formal Training Changing the Face of Traditional Medicine

The trainees include traditional knowledge holders, who are in charge of clan shrines, those who inherit from the parents or grandparents the knowledge and ways of using certain herbs to cure or manage illnesses, and spiritualists, capable of dreaming about a cure for a particular ailment.
10 Jan 2021 12:51
A certificate showing the course content of Alternative Medicine at Pharm-biotec

Audio 6

At least 200 herbalists and traditional healers have undergone training to provide alternative medicine and bridge the gap caused by drug stock-outs in hospitals.

The training which started in 2017, takes place at the Pharm-Bio Technology Traditional Medicine Centre (Pharmbiotrac) of Excellence at Gulu University. Participants in the five-week series are taught Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Basic Sciences, Applied Medicine, Quality Assurance and Quality Control. 

Dr Alice Lamwaka, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Bio-Technology and Pharmaceutical Studies, says that the training which was initially targeting traditional healers in Acholi sub-region has attracted participants from all over the country.  

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The trainees include traditional knowledge holders, who are in charge of clan shrines, those who inherit from the parents or grandparents the knowledge and ways of using certain herbs to cure or manage illnesses, and spiritualists, capable of dreaming about a cure for a particular ailment.    

According to Dr Lamwaka they have proved that the dreams of the herbalists are not always far from their laboratory findings, something she says has always given them a starting-point in researching about herbs.      

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She says the training is also aimed at teaching the safest methods of extracting the herbs and standardizing the traditional medicine dosage, which the herbalists lack.

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A 2016 study on “Prevalence and Factors Associated with the Use of Herbal Medicines During Pregnancy Among Women Attending Postnatal Clinics in Gulu District” shows that although the number of people using herbs for different ailments in Gulu is unknown, a staggering 60 per cent of the population in Uganda seek medical attention from traditional healers, a pattern which cuts across all social classes and educational levels.

Dr Lamwaka says much as the number of people seeking herbal treatment seems to be rising, the clients prefer traditional healers with basic formal education. 

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Christine Lakica, a 34-year-old woman started healing people using herbs at the age of 7. Born in Cetkana village, Patiko Sub-county, Gulu district, Lakica says that she heals ailments like epilepsy, mental disorder and kyphosis/hunchback, a condition in which the spine in the upper back is abnormally curved.

Lakica says she did not attend any formal education because of the task of healing using herbs, which her late grandfather bestowed upon her.   

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However, she decided to study the course in Alternative Medicine, to avoid falling a victim when leaders start asking for a certificate of operation.     

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Hanifa Atimago, a 21-year-old from Koch Goma, started treating people with herbs in 2017, a skill that was passed onto her by her paternal grandmother. Just like Lakica, Atimango says she treats numerous ailments such as waist pain, epilepsy, erectile dysfunction, diabetes among others, and went to school to learn the best way to extract her herbs, and to silence her critics who say she is a phoney. 

“…In the beginning is could get between 3-5 patients a day, but now that I have studied a course in line with what I am doing and from a reputable institution, I now get even 10 clients a day,” Atimango said.