|Traditional Medicinal Plants (Dar Es Salaam University Press - Ministry of Health - Tanzania, 1991, 391 p.)|
|OPENING SESSION: WELCOME AND OPENING ADDRESSES|
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.