By Felix Oketcho
Kampala: The Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) recognised Dr Nambatya, with the first prize in the Intangible Cultural Heritage category at the 2021 National Cultural Heritage Awards. She was recognised for her outstanding contribution to preserving and promoting Uganda’s national cultural heritage.
CCFU Director Barbara Batweteera said for nearly 20 years, Dr Nambatya taught communities the importance of traditional and indigenous medicine.
“She has changed perceptions on the use of herbal medicine through her research and education. Many Ugandans, especially those infected with chronic illnesses, are turning to herbal medicine and supplements for relief due to her contribution,” Barbara Batweteera said.
Upon being rewarded, Dr Nambatya said: “I feel a sense of accomplishment in my long-term career embracing the promotion of traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) by Ugandans and the world at large.”
The head of the Uganda Herbalists and Cultural Association (UHCH) Lutaakome Sentamu in a comment said: “Dr Nambatya is a scientist who is devoted to traditional medicine. She is tolerant, patient and respects people’s ideas before making decisions,”
In Uganda, there are only 5,211 registered herbalists but most herbal medicine practitioners to registered leaving room for unscrupulous herbalists, such as bogus herbal concoctions or making incisions to draw out ‘bad blood’ from unsuspecting clients.
The National Policy on Public-Private Partnership in Health (2012) states that 60 per cent of the population use traditional medicine for primary healthcare.
Reasons cited include them being more widely available and accessible than conventional medicine.
Another is the ratio of traditional medicine practitioners to the population being 1:200 and 1:400, while that of conventional practitioners is 1:20,000 or even less.
Similarly, Dr Nambatya says: “Currently, traditional medicine is expensive due to the limited production capacity of good quality herbal products. It further becomes expensive because of potential toxicity due to poor standardisation. One may set out to use a herbal product claimed to be an anti-malarial, only to end up with a damaged liver or kidney.”
Who Is Dr Nambatya?
Dr Grace Nambatya was born in April 1962, to Mary Perepetwa and Charles Sonko of Ssaza in Masaka District, central Uganda.
She attended Villa Maria Primary School (P1 to P5), Kimanya Blessed Primary School (P6), and Nkoni Primary School (P7) and proceeded to Trinity College Nabbingo for O and A-Level.
Dr Nambatya holds a BSc in Chemistry and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from Makerere University. She holds MSc in Medicinal Chemistry and a PhD in the same field from Loughborough University of Science and Technology, UK.
She has authored and co-authored several research papers that have been published in scientific journals.
Dr Nambatya received the British Council Award for Women Achievers in 2006, and the Nalubaale National Award for Service delivery in the Health Sector on Women’s Day, 2008.
She has lectured Chemistry and Pharmacy at the College of Health Sciences, and College of Natural Sciences at Makerere University. She was also an external examiner at the College of Natural Sciences and Veterinary Sciences at Makerere University for 10 years.
Dr Nambatya has been a Board member of the National Drug Authority (NDA) since 2008, representing researchers in natural products.
She has also chaired the Public-Private Partnership for Health (PPPH) Working Group for three years now.
She is also a member of the Top Management Committee of the Health ministry. Dr Nambatya is also a member of the Steering Committee in the Ministry of Science, Technology, and innovation and represents research interests in natural products. She is a gender champion at the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology.
Dr Nambatya has also served on boards of schools and parents-teachers associations (PTA) at Trinity College Nabbingo, and Uganda Martyrs Namugongo SS for seven years, and at St Mary’s College Kisubi for six years, and also at Mugwaanya Preparatory School Kabojja. She is married to Dr Robert Kyeyune, a union that has been blessed with five years.