KENYA: Clampdown on bogus herbalists

Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
Herbalists will be required to submit their products for efficacy tests
NAIROBI, 17 August 2010 (PlusNews) - The Kenyan government is drafting new regulations to stop fraudulent herbalists claiming to be able to treat diseases, including HIV, from practising.

"Anybody found selling untested herbal products will definitely face legal action for endangering people's lives," said Jayesh Pandit, head of pharmacovigilance at the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.

"There are many people out there saying they are herbalists but all they do is collect leaves and roots and cheat people," he added. "Genuine ones will come forward and our challenge will now be to hunt down those operating illegally."

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board has registered 300 legitimate herbalists, but thousands more are practising outside the law, often selling useless or even harmful products to desperate patients. According to the UN World Health Organization, up to 80 percent of Africans use traditional medicine.

The government is planning to introduce a "Traditional Medicines Practitioners Bill", which will regulate the use of herbal medicines and define the punishment to be handed down to herbalists practising illegally.

Many herbalists in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, are reluctant to submit their products for testing. Suleiman Marefu, who runs a clinic without a licence, says his clients are proof of his treatment's effectiveness.

''There are many people out there saying they are herbalists but all they do is collect leaves and roots and cheat people''
"These things work and that is why many people come here," he said. "They [the government] should just leave us to do our work and help people."

According to George Mbori, a social worker in the Nairobi slum of Gomongo, newly diagnosed HIV-positive people were most likely to go to herbalists.

"HIV-positive people who have been adequately counselled will rarely deal with herbalists and will stick to formal medicines but people who have just discovered their positive status go to the herbalists out of desperation and panic and what appears to offer quick solutions," he said.


Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, Education, Governance, Health & Nutrition, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews, Stigma/Human Rights/Law - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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