Under colonialism, traditional medical practices were outlawed as harmful and dangerous. Only after independence did the Government promote traditional medicine and begin to restore esteem to traditional medical practices. However, due to a lack of political initiative and significant mistrust between allopathic practitioners and traditional medicine practitioners, it was not until the 1980s that noticeable efforts were made. In 1983, the Government encouraged the formation of associations of traditional medicine practitioners as well as pharmacopoeia units within decentralized sanitary structures of the health system.
According to the Burkina Faso Government, traditional medicine will always remain an important source of health care for the majority of the population since traditional medicine is part of African sociocultural foundations.
More than 80% of the population in Burkina Faso use traditional medicine.
The Natural Substances Research Institute and a Health Ministry service were created in 1978 to promote traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia. In 1979, traditional medicine practitioners were officially recognized in Burkina Faso. Title IV of the Public Health Code of 28 December 1970 (13) pertains to traditional medicine. Section 49 states:
The practice of traditional medicine by persons of known repute shall be provisionally tolerated; such persons shall remain responsible, under civil and penal law, for the acts which they perform.
Subsequent items of legislation shall define the practice of this form of medicine and the status of persons engaged therein.
A medical and scientific commission appointed by the Minister responsible for Public Health shall conduct a study of the practice of traditional medicine and shall undertake investigations, notably in respect to traditional therapeutics, in order to identify the mode of action and posology of the drugs involved.
The Practice and Organization of Traditional Medicine, Chapter IV of Law 23/94/ADP of 19 May 1994 (14), promulgates the Public Health Code. This chapter defines traditional medicine and traditional medicine practitioners and reiterates their official recognition in Burkina Faso.
In July 1996, the Government approved the National Pharmaceutical Policy. In 1997, the National Pharmaceutical Directive Plan was adopted to define the global objectives of the National Pharmaceutical Policy in concrete terms. One of the aims, as designated by the Ministry of Health, was the development and promotion of traditional medicine and traditional pharmacopoeia within the official Burkina Faso health care system in order to improve the health care delivered to the population. The Plan will be taken into consideration in the development of the National Sanitary Policies, which will cover the years 2001-2010.
Decrees on the following issues are currently being elaborated: the modalities of private practice of traditional medicine, the creation of and assignments to the National Commission of Traditional Medicine and Traditional Pharmacopoeia, and an inventory of improved traditional medications. In an effort to balance conservation of natural resources and the development of traditional medicines, the Government is also in the process of developing regulations on the exploitation of traditional pharmacopoeia products with the collaboration of national and international partners, such as the World Health Organization.
Burkina Faso has local and national intersectoral councils in charge of reviewing problems related to traditional medicine (6). Local officials in Burkina Faso are allowed to authorize the practice of traditional medicine in their administrative and/or health subdivisions. Some practitioners of traditional medicine are involved in the primary health care programme (6).
Education and training
There is no official recognition for the qualifications of traditional health practitioners. However, there is a formal training programme in traditional medicine (6).