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Training herbal medicine practitioners to mitigate brain drain, ensure universal health coverage

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The Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) Victoria Island, Lagos, has trained herbal medicine practitioners to mitigate brain drain in the sector as well as ensure Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) for all Nigerians.

Speaking at the Bio-Entrepreneurship Training Workshop held at its headquarters in Lagos,, the Director General/Chief Executive, NNMDA, Dr. Sam Etatuvie, said it is estimated that the present size of the global market for herbal/natural medicines to be approximately $100 billion and due to the present trends, it has been estimated to exceed $5 billion by 2050.

He explained that Nigeria with vast bio-resources, biodiversity and investment opportunities, coupled with competitive national advantage in this area, contributes a very insignificant percentage to this global market, whereas China, India and some parts of Europe have a huge contribution due to the enormous development of natural medicine products for experts promotion.

Etatuvie disclosed that in view of the vast potentials of natural medicine and Nigeria’s huge bio-diversity, bio-resources and traditional knowledge, the need for appreciation, documentation, research development and promotion of the nation’s Medicinal Aromatic and Pesticidal Plants (MAPs) and traditional systems and the possible commercialization of MAPs as raw materials or as a finished products is essential.

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He said: “Currently the world is battling with a very contagious virus called COVID-19. Governments all over the world are looking for vaccines or cure to the disease. Herbal medicine practitioners as critical stakeholders have a huge role to play as suppliers of quality herbal raw materials to sustain national or global efforts geared towards finding preventive or curative drugs to the disease.

“However, the use of herbal products has given rise to various forms of abuse and adulteration of the products leading to consumers and manufacturers’ disappointment and in some instance fatal consequences. Generally, all medicines, whether synthetic or of plant origin should fulfill the basic requirements of being safe and effective. Safety and quality of raw materials can determine the safety, quality and efficacy of the finished products. As a rule, all stages of drug preparation from the cultivation, collection of raw materials to finished products must be standardised. As you may be aware, traditional medicine manpower development is a strategic and critical mandate of our agency thus, there is need to continually train and re-train practitioners of best global practices in herbal products development.”

The pharmacist said the agency is committed and is firmly focused on enhancing the capacity of practitioners on safe practice and modern cultivation approach of MAPs.

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He said with the growing problems of deforestation and the effect of climate change, modern herbal practice can no longer depend on the wild for the sustainable supply of MAPs to meet the huge market demand for herbal raw materials. “So, new innovative approach needs to be deployed to improve the agricultural practice of the cultivation of medicinal plants,” Etatuvie said.

He said the training has addressed organic cultivation of MAPs and networking, and marketing strategies of herbs sellers in sourcing for herbal resources in the midst of supply shortage. Etatuvie said the training has suggested sustainable approaches and methods through which herbs sellers could be empowered and encouraged to venture into biodiversity and sustainable farming at the grassroots level.

Chairman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board (LSTMB), Prof. Adefule Ositelu, commended the agency for organising the training and encouraged herb sellers to be good ambassador of the country and be patriotic in rendering their services.

She stated that it is worthy to note that herbs sellers play a vital role in proving herbal raw materials for qualitative healthcare at the primary healthcare delivery system in Nigeria.

She said; “Therefore, this training has been of benefits of them and the nation at large. It will create awareness among herbs sellers of the need to adopt the principles of bio-conservation and exploitation in the health sector and beyond”.

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