Opening of School for Khmer Traditional Medicine

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be here today at the opening of the first school of Khmer Practitioners of Traditional Medicine here in Cambodia. To the Minister of Health, the National Centre for Traditional Medicine, the professors and the many others who have worked so hard to establish this school, I would like to offer my deepest and most sincere thanks. And to all the students who will eventually support traditional healthcare in Cambodia, I would like to say that we all expect great things from you. We expect results in the field of traditional healthcare that will make this school and your teachers proud.

As many of you are aware, traditional medicine has played an important role in many countries since time immemorial. Traditional medicine is a unique and valuable resource. It is the product of the wisdom and knowledge distilled over many hundreds of years. In recent years, however, it has been common to value western healthcare far above traditional healthcare, and many people dismiss traditional medicine as unscientific. However, the benefits of traditional medicine have been proven over centuries in many countries. Furthermore, it is well known that traditional remedies have very few side effects. Traditional medicine makes use of locally grown medicinal plants, and is ideal for treating minor sicknesses such as colds, diarrhoea, and fevers.

The Nippon Foundation is involved in a large number projects around the world, in fields such as social welfare, education, and healthcare. At present, we are devoting a considerable amount of time and energy to building a system of medicine box distribution that improves access to primary healthcare.

The medicine box system has a long history in Japan, stretching back over 300 years. In this system, a medicine seller visits households and leaves a box filled with various medicines. Upon returning to the household at a later date, the seller receives payment, only for the medicines that have been used. The traditional medicines contained within the medicine boxes are much cheaper than western medicines. They cost only one tenth to one twentieth of western medicine. The distribution system allows people living far from hospitals or clinics to receive medicine and treatment. Since the inauguration of this project in Mongolia in 2004, there have been many strong results, such as a 45% drop in doctor’s house calls in some areas. Having produced such admirable results in Mongolia, the medicine box project was introduced to the Ministries of Health of several Asian countries at the WHO International Conference on Traditional Medicine. As a result, similar systems are now being used in Thailand and Myanmar.

I have heard much about the Kru Khmer, the traditional healers that are to be found all over Cambodia. Although the Kru Khmer have their own special fields, and possess extensive wisdom and knowledge, there is little in the way of statistical or academic evidence to support the methods they use. The Cambodian Ministry of Health is currently conducting a survey of the Kru Khmer. In order to manage the data produced by this survey, and to prevent misinformation about traditional healthcare, The Nippon Foundation and Cambodian Ministry of Health cooperated on the establishment of an official school for traditional medicine. The opening of this school here today represents the first step toward the preservation and distribution of accurate information about traditional medicine in Cambodia. It is the first step toward ensuring that proper treatment is given to the poorest of society and to people living in remote regions.

Every country has a different form of traditional medicine. Every country has different methods of implementation. The Nippon Foundation considers it important to bear these factors in mind when working with any country to provide its citizens with effective and suitable healthcare.

We hope that, by developing an appropriate curriculum, materials, and outreach programs here, it will be possible to nurture highly skilled Kru Khmer. We hope that the traditional medicine that they practice will become one part of a healthcare system that assists people who today cannot yet access healthcare.

In closing, let me say that I wish the Cambodian Ministry of Health, the faculty of the new school, and of course the students, every possible success in the coming years. Thank you very much.