...Sounds on da ground and seens on the see-ins
My first reaction was to laugh it off. Ghanaweb is at it again, sensationalising another headline. But as I continued to read, it sounded more 'authentic'. Besides, I have strong beliefs in traditional medicine and KNUST was ever present in this scenario. We have heard all the facts about HIV-AIDS but with the recent pronouncement from Gambia about a cure/treatment and now with this revelation from Kumasi (Ghana), should we paying some more attention and giving more credit to traditional medicine? 4x4's Kookoo Aduro is a tribute to our herbalists and medicine men.
Kookoo aduro is one of the hit songs from 4x4's debut album, Siklitele. Jama, which I previously blogged about is on the same album. Recently, they were in the news for planning to introduce crunk music into the hiplife scene. Kookoo aduro talks about the work of the herbalist, how they move from trotro to trotro selling their medicines, the kinds of diseases they cure, etc. Kookoo is the Twi word for 'piles' or 'haemorrhoids'. The herbalist sells medicine for various kinds of ailments and is a walking pharmacy. It is quite a funny song, reminds me of the countless times I've been riding buses in Ghana only to have one passenger request permission from the driver to address the passenger crew so (s)he can sell something. I can never forget the Akobalms and Mercy Creams of yesterday, their jingles are stuck in my head.
I don't think a lot of people doubt the ability of herbalists in Ghana. A lot of people still entrust their health in the hands of traditional priests. If you think I am lying, get off your high horse in Accra and go to the villages. :-) Even Hollywood is agreeing - remember when the older doctor (white) in 'The Last King of Scotland' told the Scottish gentleman who had just arrived to assist him that 80% of the people he was supposed to serve preferred the native doctor to him? When my friends and I bruised ourselves playing gutter-to-gutter back in the day, we often sought herbs to treat our wounds. I also guess Madam Catherine must be a successful business for its promoters to continue advertising the product left, right, center.
So generally, when we hear of an AIDS cure/treatment in Kumasi, is our first reaction to laugh it off? Are our herbalists not capable of pulling such a feat? I think they are. This time around, Mr. Kamara Agyapong has been running trial tests over a long period of time with medical personnel from KNUST (the self-proclaimed 5th best technical university in the world). 2 of his patients have reportedly been cured/treated of AIDS due to the brilliance of Koankro, the herbal mixture. Koankro apparently means non-curable. Hmm.
It's nice to hear that KNUST is involved in this effort, but this story could become more remarkable, if we paid more attention to herbal medicine on an institutional level. Too many biochemistry and chemical engineering students in Ghana complain about lack of job opportunities in those fields and end up setting up wholesale or retail businesses. There is only one Noguchi memorial insitute the last time I checked. We need more Noguchis, more to make sure these brains do not go to waste. Heck, there is even a whole major called herbal medicine in KNUST and they share the same building as the pharmacy students. There is also the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research. So academia is doing its bit, bit by bit. I hope the herbal medicine students are not being trained to prescribe drugs. The raw materials are there, the personnel is available, Mercy cream is a lucrative business, so what are we waiting for?
Which brings me to my next point. I was wondering the other day, what can you find in a typical pharmaceutical store in Ghana? The tide is changing. Many pharmacies sell herbal medicine too and as you can see in the picture, some shops exclusively deal in herbal medicine. The ease in selling them is no more a problem since they are well packaged and marketed. Kinapharma is one of the major players in this industry and they even sponsored Ghana's premier football league a couple of years ago. Collectively, people know about Kinapharma, but how many people can identify three or four of their products? When someone comes to your pharmacy/drug store to buy Kinapharma, you should know there's a communication problem.
I hope this is not the last that we'll hear of Mr. Agyapong and Koankro. I suppose the Gambian president is quietly working on his own cure so as to broadcast more good news at a later time. I am positive about the abilities of traditional and herbal medicine in Ghana and once, we marry our roots with technology, we should go a long way. AIDS is destroying the social fibre of the African people and it would be appropriate if we could arrive at a cure/treatment to stop the bleeding.