Published on 22/07/2020

Coronavirus control: Awareness raising of Traditional Medicine Practitioners in the community response

The world is experiencing one of the biggest pandemics of the century. The coronavirus has spread very rapidly to all countries in the world because of its silent and insidious transmission, which makes it particularly contagious.  

Today, in the absence of proven therapeutic solutions, raising awareness of risk factors and adopting barrier measures individually and collectively can help reduce the spread of the pandemic.  

In this context, African countries whose health systems are extremely under-resourced should anticipate, innovate and consider solutions better adapted to their situation by exploiting the local opportunities available to them.

Africa must show imagination, aggressiveness, rigour and responsibility, because the low purchasing power of its populations and the high cost of health services must lead to increased research into medicinal plants with proven therapeutic virtues.   

Traditional medicine is an important and often underestimated part of health care worldwide, even though it has been verified that it contributes to the achievement of universal access to health care. In fact, the WHO reports that nearly 80% of the population use Traditional Medicine Practitioners (TMPs) as their first line of defence.  

However, the involvement of LDCs in behaviour change processes is still low despite the strong potential of their associations. In this situation, a change of paradigm seems necessary to develop close collaboration between the traditional and modern systems of management of the coronavirus disease. It will be a question of involving them in the fight and better equipping them for the detection and early warning of patients presenting signs of the disease.

There is no doubt that the results of research and development and innovation on medicinal plants predispose our continent to solve the health problems of populations by resorting to local therapeutic solutions. Similarly, constraints in the area of intellectual property and biodiversity, access to resources and benefit sharing (ABS) as well as capacity building of LDCs need to be addressed.

In Senegal, the health authorities favour and encourage the community response by placing this area of intervention at the heart of the fight. Indeed, the rapid evolution of the pandemic at the community level requires a high level of effectiveness in communications that emphasise the preventive and promotional aspect of barrier actions to help reduce the infection and spread of the pandemic.

At this level, traditional medicine practitioners can make a substantial contribution in informing, sensitising and communicating with communities.   

It is in this perspective that the National Agency for Applied Scientific Research (ANRSA), as part of its mission to valorise the results of scientific research and endogenous knowledge, in relation with ENDA Santé and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Action and the Senegalese Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners (FSPMT), is organising regional workshops in July 2020 on the involvement of LMPs in the community response to the Coronavirus. This meeting will also be an opportunity to raise awareness on access to resources and benefit sharing and the lack of a legal framework.