Director's Message

Many of the drugs that we import from the west are incredibly expensive.  There frequently is no inexpensive generic available, and despite the best efforts at government subsidies, medicine remains beyond the reach of many.  Further more there are vultures who sell the poorest developing countries expired medicinces thereby making a profit over the bodies of the sick and the needy.  The Chirac Foundation in France (established by the former president of France and on whose Honor Board I serve) has been active in drawing attention to the traffic in fake medicines or expired medicines.  Recently, technology has also come to the rescue by introducing tiny, edible bar codes.  These bar codes are so small that they can be embedded in medications, creating a tool to combat the global problem of drug fraud.

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Half of Africans do not have access to essential drugs.  In 2015, it was estimated that with the provision of the right drugs to treat respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and malaria, around 10 million lives could be saved.

But Africa also has another resource that it needs to manage better.  Traditional medicines have not been adequately studied and organized in Africa.  In China, for example, there has been a lot of attention paid to traditional medicine and the herbal remedies they rely on, not to mention Acupuncture, which stunned the West when it was first seriously discussed there. 

Many communities are familiar with the local herbs and plants needed for home-made remedies.  While not all ritual and herbal remedies are necessarily effective, a good portion of them is.   Like much of folklore, traditional medicine contains many parts of wisdom honed through the generations, and it behooves us not to ignore it.  Rather we should be recording this traditional knowledge before it is lost, and then use it to distill the best of it, so that in addition to serving the poor populations now, it can also serve as the basis of starting local pharmaceutical businesses throughout the African continent.


Ismail Serageldin
Librarian of Alexandria
Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina(BA)

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