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Monday,October 19,2020 16:04 PM

She has changed the face of herbal medicine

By Vision Reporter

Added 31st January 2010 03:00 AM

TEN years ago, praising herbal medicine would easily earn one the title witch. However, many Ugandans, especially those infected with chronic illnesses, are turning to herbal medicine and supplements for relief.

TEN years ago, praising herbal medicine would easily earn one the title witch. However, many Ugandans, especially those infected with chronic illnesses, are turning to herbal medicine and supplements for relief.

By Chris Kiwawulo

Name: Dr. Grace Kyeyune Nambatya
Born: April 1962 to Mary Perepetwa and Charles Sonko of Ssaza in Masaka district
Location: Namasuba, Entebbe Road
Status: Married
Work: Director of research, Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory (NCRL) —Wandegeya
Education:
Villa Maria Primary School from P.1 to P.5.
Kimanya Blessed Primary School(P.6)
Nkoni Primary School(PLE)
Trinity College Nabbingo-O and A’Level
Makerere University- bachelors of science degree in chemistry

Loughborough University (UK) a master of science degree in medicinal chemistry and a doctorate (PhD) in the same field
A post-graduate diploma in education (PGDE). It has helped her in teaching the community about herbal medicine.

TEN years ago, praising herbal medicine would easily earn one the title witch. However, many Ugandans, especially those infected with chronic illnesses, are turning to herbal medicine and supplements for relief.

The negative perception about herbal medicine in the past would have perhaps been the same today had it not been for the director of research at the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory (NCRL) in Wandegeya, Dr. Grace Kyeyune Nambatya’s bold steps.

With the tangible results her prescriptions have had on people’s health, many have embraced it. She started her campaign for herbal medicine 10 years ago.

“Teaching people that herbs are important in protecting their lives has not been a simple task. But I am happy that today, confidence in herbal medicine has gone up by over 50%,” Nambatya says.

The reluctance by most Ugandans to use herbal medicine in favour of Western medicine was due to a colonial residual mentality.

Colonialists discouraged locals against taking herbs, saying Western medicine was better.

Nambatya’s goal is to see Ugandans appreciate and use natural products. “We do also look at the quality of the products to ensure that they are commensurate with the health standards.

We are working on a policy to regularise herbal medicine dealers and their products,” she says.

Nambatya feels encouraged and uplifted when people show trust in her work.
“People challenge me to read and research more whenever they ask me questions about herbs. In the end, I give them the best,” says Nambatya, who trains communities on how to use natural products to live healthy lives.

Every year, she trains about 1,000 people. She notes that each region of Uganda has a variety of traditional medicines to be embraced and harnessed.

Nambatya can look at the doctor’s prescription of any illness and know the best herb one can use with little or no side effects. “I also need to know the cause of the disease so that I can guide the patient,” she adds.

She says herbal medicine can be administered at home, which reduces the burden on the few doctors available. The doctor to patient ratio in Uganda is 1:18,000.

Nambatya has helped many women to fight fibroids using herbs. “Fibroids occur as a result of excess oestrogen in the body and one’s social life and diet. She gives women dietary advice, herbs and supplements in phases to keep fibroids away.

Nambatya says women who experience painful and extended menstruation periods should check for fibroids, because that is one indication they have them.

She works with other medics like radiologists and physicians. The shortcoming to herbal medicine promotion, Nambatya observes, is the lack of a legal framework within which potential investors can operate and be protected from fake herbal drug dealers.

She says Uganda needs herbal medicine industries because some local investors who are ready to sink money in such projects are bogged down by lack of a policy framework.

She says NCRL looks forward to a law on traditional and complementary medicine.

“We need to fight charlatans who go overboard and cheat people. We need the Public-Private Partnership for health-legal framework and traditional and complementary medicine policy. We also need sustainability of the frameworks,” she says.

She also calls for stakeholder mapping, where all people involved in herbal medicine are brought on board for a prosperous industry.

Another challenge, Nambatya says, is the strings attached to donor-funding. “With such funds, you end up injecting money in projects which do not merit first priority.

We have not reached the level of rejecting donor funds if they have strings attached to things we do not want. However, we strive to reach that stage,” she explains.

She hopes that since NCRL has been elevated to the status of an institute, it would be self-accounting with a board. “This gives us the mandate to interact with the private sector, research on a product and put it on the market,” she says.

She also hopes that since the Uganda National Health Research Organisation (UNHRO) has the mandate to take on the management of all research centres from the Ministry of Health, there will be progress. She prays UNHRO works effectively and efficiently in coordinating research.

Due to hard work, Nambatya was appointed chairperson of the Public Private Partnerships in Health at the health ministry and the herbal committee of the National Drug Authority Board. She is also a Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Muyenga.

With a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, a master’s of science degree in medicinal chemistry and a doctorate (PhD) in the same field, Nambatya is still set on getting a master’s of business administration (MBA).

“At (NCRL), you need skills to lead. So, MBA is a requirement,” she says with a grin.

This resident of Namasuba, Entebbe Road, says: “I rarely fall sick because I am a positive-minded person. Inside me is a feeling that I am supposed to look after people around me and I live carefully.”

A mother of five, Nambatya is married to Robert Kyeyune, an Information Communication Technology expert and a don at Makerere University Business School (MUBS).

She has also interested her husband in herbal medicine. “We have a cottage industry at home from where I process the medicne,” she says.

Because of her hard work and support to fellow women and the community as a whole, Nambatya won the 2006 ‘Professional Woman Of The Year’ award from the British Council.

She has developed a skin ointment called Genuine Natural Products (GENAPO) out of aloe vera, which she says has 100% natural herbs and has successfully cured several skin diseases.

When Nambatya is not at work, she is either doing part-time teaching at Makerere University or researching about herbs at her home in Namasuba. She has encouraged women to plant herbs.

On weekends, Nambatya does gardening, takes her children to swim or goes to the theatre to watch plays.

If you know any woman who has made a difference in her community through innovation, value-addition in medicine, research, science and technology. Please send your nomination to features@newvision.co.ug. Or write to The Features Editor, The New Vision, P.O. Box 9815, Kampala.

She has changed the face of herbal medicine

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