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July 21, 2001
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South Africa, India sign pact on health

Fakir Hassen in Johannesburg

South Africa, impressed with the high standards of technology used in the Indian pharmaceutical industry, has signed a co-operation agreement with India in health and medicine.

"The agreement we signed aims to promote, jointly, our mutual knowledge, experience and understanding in the field of health and medical science through close co-operation," South African Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang said.

She said that she is impressed with the high standards of Indian technology in the field of pharmaceutical manufacturing.

South Africa was looking forward to closer co-operation with India in this regard, Tshabalala-Msimang said.

The minister was speaking as chief guest at a seminar on healthcare, drugs, pharmaceuticals and the Indian system of medicine organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry as part of the Made in India Show currently running at Gallagher Estates here.

"There are six areas that have been identified at this stage. As our co-operation grows and matures, some of these areas may change, and we are certainly open to that," she added.

The six areas are pharmaceutical services, including the registration and procurement of medicines; community based HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and nutrition programs; traditional and complementary medicine; waterborne diseases; research, particularly into cancer and cardiovascular diseases; and health information systems, including information technology.

The minister said that the co-operation would take several forms.

"We will exchange information on medical achievements; arrange exchange visits for health professionals from both countries; participate in joint scientific programs and workshops; and engage in transfer of technology programs, particularly in the field of pharmaceuticals," she said.

Tshabalala-Msimang said India and South Africa, though different in many ways, share a powerful common bond as both countries are based on ancient civilisations and were subjected to British colonial rule for a long time.

"Our people, Indians and Africans, long before the Western world was functioning at all, had developed and sustained, complex societies with meaningful spiritual, moral and behavioral codes. We have had sophisticated methods of healing," she said.

"Colonial powers in Africa and in India ignored our traditional medicine and their great healing power, and set about establishing Western-styled health services that for the most part, excluded the indigenous people," Tshabalala-Msimang said.

"The models of healthcare that were implemented were primarily intended for colonial administrators and expatriates. Separate and second-class provision was made, where it was made at all, for Africans and Indians," she said.

Tshabalala-Msimang said it was for these reasons that India and South Africa, as well as other countries with similar histories, had never been able to deliver adequate healthcare, even the most basic services, to the majority of the people, especially those who live in rural areas.

She also said that the delegates at the seminar would appreciate the efforts made by South Africa in respect to traditional medicine and healing.

In South Africa's Allied Health Professions Act, passed in December last year, a provision is made, for the first time in South Africa, to open registers for Ayurvedic practitioners (who follow traditional Indian system of medicine) and other practitioners of alternative health and medicines.

"To support this with regard specifically to Indian medicine, the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at the University of Natal in Durban will shortly be opening a school of Ayurveda, Sidha and homeopathy, (traditional Indian forms of medicine) and I wish them well," she said.

Indo-Asian News Service


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