Learn from India, says Bishop Emeritus of Abuja, Nigeria, on traditional medicine

Nigeria’s medical sector is a particularly volatile one. The influx of modern medicine has made much of the population shun its traditional medicine and then travel abroad in search of good treatment. This not only affects the cultural identity of the country but also leads to big economic losses with people spending huge amounts at foreign hospitals. 

Catholic Bishop Emeritus of Abuja Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, is one of the few leaders of influence who has taken up the task of guiding the country's population back to its roots. And the examples the Bishop Emeritus chose to portray are India and China. 

“It will serve us a good purpose to restore our natural medicine and remedies and showcase them on the global space for us and others. In this, we do well to learn from what the Indians and Chinese have been doing, to the admiration and amazement of the global medical community”, John Cardinal Onaiyekan said. 

The Bishop Emeritus said this on the occasion of the Nigerian Federal Government unveiling four herbal products developed by the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency for the management of diabetes, sickle cell disease, treatment of upper respiratory tract infections, and reducing fast aging, last Friday in Lagos. 

Natural medicine remains a viable alternative for many people who are unable to afford orthodox medicine. As per the World Health Organisation, around 40 percent of pharmaceutical products today have a natural product basis, and landmark drugs are derived from traditional medicine.

“There is no adequate recognition of the fact that much of modern medicine is based on knowledge gleaned from various natural medical products and practices. A case can be made about violation of Intellectual Property Rights, as our natural herbs, roots, and animal parts were taken away and repackaged in big pharmaceutical industries into bottled drinks and pills,” said John Cardinal Onaiyekan. 

The Bishop Emeritus further lamented that much of the Nigerian populace looked at traditional medicine practitioners with contempt and distrust. While India fares much better in this field compared to Nigeria, most of the concerns raised by the Bishop Emeritus apply to India as well. 

However, the words of John Cardinal Onaiyekan also reveal the pride and loyalty Indians hold for their traditional values, including in medicine. While problems persist, the growth of traditional medicine in India under the Ayush ministry during the last 10 years is finding a place in the global discourse, and Catholic Bishop Emeritus of Abuja Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has just testified to that. 

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