In rural areas, herbalists and spiritualists are the two most common practitioners of traditional medicine. In urban areas, acupuncturists and natural medicine providers - medical practitioners who treat with mineral and animal products - are more common.
Through scientific analysis, independent researchers have confirmed the efficacy of a number of Congolese traditional medical products - such as manadiar, antougine, meyamium, and diazostimul - leading to their distribution throughout Africa.
For the treatment of pathologies of the reproductive system, 59.9% of Congolese women use traditional medicine. Of these women, 38.2% report having experienced complications or side effects after using these medicines.
The traditional medicine branch of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs was created in 1974 to develop a national herbarium and determine the number of traditional medicine practitioners in the country. In 1980, the National Union of Tradi-Therapists of Congo was founded. In 1982, the traditional medicine branch was expanded, becoming the Traditional Medicine Service. The Service, led by a pharmacist, was charged with conducting research, enriching the national herbarium, gathering medicinal formulas, popularizing traditional medicine, and integrating traditional and allopathic medicine.
In 1987, the National Centre of Traditional Medicine was established to promote research, manufacture traditional medical products, exchange information with other traditional medicine institutions, train allopathic doctors and students in traditional medicine, and teach techniques for the aseptic preparation of medicines to practitioners of traditional medicine. Failure to collaborate with traditional medicine practitioners and a poor relationship between traditional medicine practitioners and allopathic practitioners proved to be obstacles to the Centre's work.
Congo has official legislative/regulatory texts governing the practice of traditional medicine. It also has local and national intersectoral councils for traditional medicine. Local officials in Congo are allowed to authorize the practice of traditional medicine in their administrative and/or health subdivisions. Some traditional medicine practitioners are also involved in the primary health care programme of Congo; however, in certain centres this integration is very weak (6).
There is a licensing process, a national association, and a registry of traditional health practitioners. The Management of Health Services of the Ministry of Health, the National Union of Tradi-Therapists, and other professional traditional medicine associations review the qualifications of traditional medicine practitioners, although there are no set criteria for these qualifications.
Traditional medicine practitioners are recognized by the Government and are well tolerated. In 1996, legislation on the recognition of traditional medicine and complementary/alternative medicine was drafted, but it has not yet been finalized because of the 1997-1999 armed conflict. Under current regulations, only herbalists are permitted to practise in the official health care system.
Education and training
No training in traditional medicine is integrated into the university medical curriculum.
An attempt has been made to standardize the fees of traditional medicine practitioners in Congo, although no patient reimbursement exists for such fees (6).