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WHO chief Ghebreyesus pins hope on Gujarat Declaration to unlock power of traditional medicines

WHO’s first ever Global Summit on Traditional Medicine inaugurated as part of the G20 Health Minister’s Meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today said that he hoped the Gujarat Declaration after the G20 health minister’s summit will integrate the use of traditional medicines in national health systems, and help unlock the power of traditional medicine through science.

The WHO director general was speaking at the inaugural event of the first ever Global Summit for Traditional Medicine being co-hosted by the Ministry of Ayush and the WHO as part of the ongoing G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting under India’s presidency, being held in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar from 17th to 19th August.

Emphasizing the link between traditional medicines, and the environment, Dr. Ghebreyesus said, “Traditional Medicine is as old as humanity itself, people in all nations have used traditional healing practices at some point in their lives.”

He highlighted how the sources of many modern drugs can be traced to use of traditional medicine methods by communities like willow bark, and periwinkle which forms the basis for aspirin, and cancer drugs.

The WHO chief acknowledged India’s efforts to enhance Universal Health Coverage under the nationwide Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme. His visit to a health and wellness centre on Wednesday enabled him to see the extension of primary health services in the country. He also highlighted India’s adoption of telemedicine, which not only expands health service delivery, but also helps save time and money for patients.

Addressing the event, India’s Health Minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya said, “The Global Summit for Traditional Medicine serves as a beacon of hope, promoting a holistic approach to health and well-being. By embracing ancient wisdom and modern science, we can collectively work towards achieving health-related Sustainable Development Goals while fostering a ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’ ethos.”

The two-day summit with the theme “Towards Health and Well-being for All”, will explore the role of traditional complimentary and integrative medicine in addressing pressing health challenges and driving progress in global health and sustainable development.

Dr. Mandaviya said, “This Global Summit presents a unique platform for dialogue, idea exchange, collaboration, and international partnerships in the realm of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. For centuries, traditional and complementary medicine has played a pivotal role in promoting personal and community health. Even in modern times, the demand for natural and herbal-based pharmaceuticals and cosmetics underscores the enduring significance of traditional healing practices.”

Speaking about the WHO’s Global Centre for Traditional Medicine headquartered in Gujarat’s Jamnagar, Dr. Mandaviya said, “This centre serves as a knowledge hub, synergizing ancient wisdom with modern science for the betterment of people and the planet. By supplementing WHO’s core functions, the centre accelerates the advancement of traditional medicine globally.”

Union Minister of Ayush Sarbananda Sonowal said, “The first ever Global Summit for Traditional Medicine holds immense significance as it goes beyond borders, unites mind for future of healthcare, and signifies the dawn of a new era in healthcare globally.”

The event was also attended by Ms Lonpo Dasho Dechen Wangmo, Minister of Health, Bhutan, and Ms. Vivian T. Camacho Hinojosa, National Director of Ancestral Traditional Medicine, Bolivia.

The Director General of the World Trade Organization, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a video message highlighted that traditional medicine is not antithetical, rather it is complementary to modern medicine. She hoped the summit would help widen the understanding of traditional medicine, and serve as concerted and inclusive platform for the issues raised at the Summit.

Ms Lonpo Dasho Dechen Wangmo spoke of the focus on Sowa Rigpa in Bhutan, and said, “Our traditional medicines are not just systems of healing, but are vital building block of our healthcare system.”

The summit will see two days of detailed deliberation and knowledge sharing on various facets of Traditional Medicine in the world. Besides, a dedicated exhibition for traditional medicine, showcasing the value, and diversity in traditional medicine across the globe will also be inaugurated as part of the summit today.

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