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State challenged to exploit traditional medicine in building medical tourism

MOMBASA, KENYA: Eunice Kabugi stares at a queue outside her shop and mumbles; “not a bad day”. For the last six years, she operates a shop that trades in Indian centuries-old traditional medicine, Ayurvedic.

Ayurveda, loosely translated as the science of life, is a treatment based on a 500-year-old Indian therapy or philosophy and medics which is gaining a strong foothold in the East Africa region.

Like other traders dealing in traditional medicine, Kabuga says she faces challenges like increased import of counterfeit food supplement and the government’s failure to streamline the sector.

For starters, Ayurveda is a philosophy pegged on believes that when all the body systems are in a state of equilibrium, one attains a balanced state of the body, mind and spirit.

The treatment is approved as a medical science by the World Health Organization (WHO). Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Japan and Thailand have since fused it as part of their health system.

But low level of awareness in Kenya on the science has affected its use despite its growing importance elsewhere, according to Dr G. Vinodkumar, an Indian based expert on Ayurveda.

Ms. Kabuga and Vinodkumar concur that the treatment can combat many disease, which Kenyans travel to India to seek treatment for. It could also bolster medical tourism, they aver.

“We urge the government and partners in India to help us create awareness among the Kenyans since Ayurveda has a significant role to play in the health provision,” said Kabuga.

In an interview Dr Vinodkumar said there were also huge inflow of patients to India from Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Australia and USA to India to seek Ayurvedic treatments.

“Just as in other parts of the world, the demand of Ayurveda in Kenya is increasing as well and the number of those seeking treatment in India has been increasing as well,” said Dr Vinodkumar.

Ms. Jane Orinda, the founder of Nairobi based Mori Ayudevic, asked the government not to give traditional medicines a blind eye as it fashions its universal health care system.

She said that like India and other countries, Kenyan should exploit traditional medicine to bolster medical tourism which could spur research on non-convention treatment or medicines.

The Economic Development in Africa Report 2017 released last year revealed that more private health and wellness facilities were setting up shops in the country bolstering medical tourist.

Every year, about 20,000 visa applications are received by the Indian High Commission from Kenyans seeking specialized cancer, health treatment, kidney transplant and surgeries in India.

“Patient with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and HIV related complications are increasingly using the treatment due to its low cost,” said Orinda.

She urged the government not to leave out non-conventional treatment or medicine as it fashions plan to roll out the Universal Healthcare as part of its agenda four.

In an interview, Dr Vinodkumar said Ayurveda treatment is a solution to many diseases and health complications that we are witnessing in Kenya and other East Africa countries today.

“Understanding the importance of Ayurveda and its popularity among the masses, the government of India undertook initiatives to support and promote this science,” said Dr Vinodkumar.

India boasts of more than 350 colleges offering professional degree courses in Ayurveda.

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