IVAN ONGEBO: Traditional Medicine, An Opportunity in Adapting to Antimicrobial Resistance In Uganda

Article Author; Ongebo Ivan

According to scientific research, the discovery of antibiotics in the previous years has led to the reduction in deaths and sufferings due to infectious diseases however, inappropriate and irrational use has resulted in the emergence of resistant microbial populations, termed as antimicrobial resistance. 

According to Center of Disease Control and prevention (CDC), antimicrobial occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

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According World Health Organization (WHO, 2020), antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk. Organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections. 

World Health Organization estimates that by 2050, antimicrobial resistance will lead to 10 million deaths every year, causing reduction of 2 to 3.5 percent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and costing the world up to $100 trillion. 

Antimicrobial resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and increased mortality. The problem of antimicrobial resistance is one of the problems which the already constrained Uganda’s health care system is currently dealing with. 

Health opportunity with herbal medicine

Fortunately, traditional herbal medicines are not commonly resisted by most microbes like protozoa, viruses, bacteria that cause different diseases that are common in Uganda. For example of such diseases include, but not limited to, tuberculosis, salmonellosis, gonorrhea and malaria. More luckily, according to a research done in Uganda, about 70 – 80% of the Ugandan population still relies on traditional healers for day-to-day health care.

In some rural areas the percentage is around ninety compared to 80% reported world-wide. World Health Organization had earlier estimated that the usage of traditional medicine in developing countries is 80%. This is a clear sign that herbal medicines play an important in primary health care of Ugandans especially the poor majority in the country.

Utilizing the opportunity with traditional medicine

Having above opportunities in mind, there is a need to put more attention to the use of herbal medicines in Uganda as this will reduce the increasing burdens that antimicrobial resistance is putting on the already constrained healthcare system. This should be a priority topic for action by relevant actors in the national healthcare system that will ensure that herbalists are mobilized, empowered, recognized, registered and integrated into the national health care system.

With the integration of herbal medicine and other traditional medicine practitioners in to the national health system, supporting, monitoring and regulation of their practices will become easier hence, giving ultimate health benefits to the already constrained Uganda’s health care system.

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This article was authored by:  ONGEBO IVAN -a BSc.Environmental Health Scientist at Makerere University School of Public Health (BEHS, MaKSPH) Kampala


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