Thousands, possibly tens of thousands of Ugandans would probably have been saved from the deadly cancer disease if they do not waste valuable time drinking jerrycans filled with local herbal concoctions.
Ministry of health officials have turned up the heat on herbalists accusing them of wasting patients’ time and money instead of advising them to seek cancer treatment at Mulago before it is too late.
According to Oncologists (Cancer experts) majority of Cervical cancer patients report for treatment when its too late. Cervical cancer accounts for nearly 48% of all total cancer cases in Uganda.
The head of Non-communicable diseases in the Ministry of health (MOH) Dr. Gerald Mutungi urged Ugandans to shun herbalists because they neither detect nor treat cancer.
“Some of the herbs taken by our people have toxic elements to which some diseases we are fighting are attributed, making the challenge of cancer and other non communicable diseases even more complicated,” Mutungi said. He was speaking at a news conference to announce a series of sensitization activities to mark the February cancer month.
Mutungi echoed the Director of Health services in the MOH Dr. Anthony Mbonye who attributed the rapid increase of cancer to late diagnosis among other factors.
“I appreciate the predicament faced particularly in Uganda where many of our people are diagnosed late due to among other factors lack of information and accessibility to quality services,” Mbonye said.
Mutungi also dismissed herbal medicine as totally useless in treating cancer and other diseases in the non-communicable category.
But he expressed disappointment at what he called rigidity on the part of herbalists whom he accused of ignoring MOH’s persistent pleas to subject herbal medicines to laboratory testing which he says should help to establish the pharmaceutical as well as therapeutic claims surrounding their herbs.
“We have persistently called upon them as a ministry to bring their herbs to our labs so that we can subject them to scientific tests before they blindly feed them to our people but they refused saying that we shall steal their herbs,” Mutungi complained
The Director of the Cancer institute (UCI) Dr Jackson Orem agreed with Mutungi. Orem however cautioned MOH against a hardline approach towards herbal medicines reiterating that the difference between good herbs and the industrials-produced drugs on the market is research.
“What is still needed is interface between those herbs and us is research bearing in mind that the drugs we are using on the market are developed from their raw state of herbs,” Orem stated.
“That is why we can’t wield a big stick to shut the door on all herbs at the moment,” added Orem.
Hajj Muhammad Lugoloobi, a herbalist from Kasawo village and one of those who claim to cure cancer dismissed health officials claims about herbal medicines and their effect on cancer.
Lugoloobi said: “Gone are the days when herbalists used to be secretive about their trade. That is why it is not uncommon for many of us to indicate the sources of our herbs on the products we put on the market.”