United Republic of Tanzania

Alban Africa

United Republic of Tanzania

Background Information

Traditional medicine has been practiced separately from allopathic medicine since the colonial period. The practice of traditional medicine is threatened by a lack of written documentation on traditional medical practices, which has made its promotion difficult, and by a decline in biodiversity, including traditional medicinal resources, in certain localities. There has also been a decline in the number of practitioners of traditional medicine.

Beginning in the 1990’s, complementary/alternative systems of health care have emerged in Tanzania. These new medical options include magnetic therapy, homeopathic medicine, massage, and traditional Chinese, Korean, and Indian medicines.

Regulatory Situation

The Medical Practitioners and Dentists Ordinance, which was constituted before Tanzania’s independence and is still in operation, holds exemplary status for traditional practitioners. Chapter 92.20 states the following:

Nothing contained in this ordinance shall be construed to prohibit or prevent the practice of systems of therapeutics according to native methods by persons recognized by the community to which they belong to be duly trained in such practice.

Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize any person to practice native systems of therapeutics except among the community to which he belongs, or the performance of an act on the part of any persons practicing any such system which is dangerous to life.

In an effort to promote and standardize traditional medicine, the Government established the Traditional Medicine Research Unit in 1974 as part of the University of Dar es Salaam and the Muhimbili Medical Center. In 1985, the Government of Tanzania was in the process of developing a law to register and license traditional practitioners.

In 1989, governance of traditional health services was shifted from the ministry responsible for culture to the Ministry of Health, which has established a Traditional Health Services Unit. This Unit is working to unify traditional health practitioners and mobilize them to form their own association. The Unit is also involved in the formation of a traditional medicine policy, the overall goal of which is to improve the health status of the people through the use of effective and safe elements of traditional health care. Traditional health services are officially recognized in the National Health Policy of 1990.

Education and Training

There has been no attempt to introduce or incorporate traditional medicine into the training curricula of allopathic medical students.