Medicinal herbs or traditional medicine has been utilized in all civilizations prior pre-historic Rwandans they have been using the traditional herbs since time immemorial until the introduction of the modern medicine when the traditional way of healing diseases was the only type of treatment.
A large proportion of the population in Rwanda used traditional medicinal plants in order to meet health care needs.
In Rwanda, particularly those in rural areas, some still use herbal medicine to treat sickness one of the commonest herbal plant is ‘UMUBIRIZI’ medically known as Vernonia amygdalina that heals malaria.
World Health Organization reported that 90% of people in Ethiopia, Benin, Rwanda and Tanzania (Africa) still use herbal medicine to meet their primary health care needs.
World Health Organisation ,take notice and it now encourages herbal medicine an albeit with scientific approach.
Rwanda’s health ministry has also not been left behind and began by organizing the over 14,000 recognized healers. The traditional doctors now have an organization with 3,000 registered members, and they have one pressing priority; saving the dwindling plant species from extinction.
They have already identified close to 50 plant species that need urgent intervention but are yet to get the necessary funding. Apart from being an environmental protection matter, this noble intention needs all the help it can get.
According to AGA Rwanda Network, an association of traditional healers in the country, the association carried out a research which revealed that over 700 medicinal plant species are in danger of decline.
To this end, AGA Rwanda Network is seeking Rwf416 million to implement a project aimed to restore those endangered medicinal plants in the country.
Dr Raymond Muganga, pharmacy lecturer at University of Rwanda’s department of medicine and pharmacy — who is also representative of National Pharmacy Council says that traditional knowledge of healing diseases on medicinal plant should be a technique that is transferred to the children and respectively to the grandchildren and kept it as a legacy conserving most especially the techniques that were being used in healing diseases.
“My Grandfather was a traditional healer unfortunately However, died without showing the healing secrets to any of his children for me I take it a great loss may be that knowledge would have helped me as an added skill in my profession as a pharmacist” he recalls
Dr Théophille Dushime, in charge of General Clinical services in the Ministry of Health clarifying that traditional healing is much recognized by the ministry.
“We will follow up on such medicines to know how they work and then to see the contribution of traditional medicine in health. We can also stop importing medicines after we have realized that such local medicines have efficacy to heal Rwandans,” Dushime said.
He added that an institute of traditional healers will be set up after improving their woks and its major targets will be to follow on their discipline and ensure their performance. The institute will also able to give punishments for offenders.
For plants which are endangered, a joint collaboration between the ministry of health with other institutions such as Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), and researchers will identify all medicinal plants countrywide to preserve them and plant new ones that will be used in manufacturing made in Rwanda medicines.
Daniel Gafaranga, the president of AGA Rwanda Network said that traditional healing heritage should be preserved, noting that more efforts should be put in transferring skills in this therapy from parents (elders) to children.
The future of traditional medicine.
Dr Raymond Muganga,Medical lecturer University of Rwanda, highlighted that over 60 percent of the budget in health is allocated to medicines and advised traditional healers to look for a solution to the decline of medicinal plants.
“But we can get a solution by seeking all information from traditional healers and try to re-plant such herbs which are endangered, because when the medicine disappears, it is hard to regain it and you know it is any important natural resource for our health,” Muganda added
Daniel Gafaranga, the president of AGA Rwanda Net Work of traditional healers, says, Traditional healing is a heritage that some-one inherits from parents “But we have concluded that everyone must write down when bequeathing knowledge on the traditional medicine as inheritance to children. You must, for example, identify the plant and, if it cures cancer, you say it and record it somewhere so that it will never be forgotten.” Gafaranga said.
Louis Ndayisaba, a traditional healer in Gitega Sector of Nyarugenge District said they are happy as traditional healers are recognized by the government.
“We are so happy that we are no longer called sorcerers as before. We appreciate trainings and advice they give us to improve our work,” Ndayisaba noted.
AGA Rwanda network has over 3,000 accredited healers, while overall, there are about 14,000 traditional healers countrywid
By Mike Urinzwenimana
The Express News