- Title: Madagascar's COVID-19 "cure" inspires other African remedies
- Date: 13th July 2020
- Summary: ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR (FILE) (REUTERS) ***WARNING: CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** TANZANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PALAMAGAMBA KABUDI AND MADAGASCAR FOREIGN MINISTER DJACOBA TEHINDRAZANARIVELO, DRINKING A TOAST WITH COVID ORGANICS (CVO) HERBAL REMEDY KABUDI AND TEHINDRAZANARIVELO BEING PHOTOGRAPHED HOLDING A BOX OF CVO VARIOUS OF THE CVO HERBAL MEDICINE ON DISPLAY (SOUNDBITE) (English) TANZANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, PALAMAGAMBA KABUDI, SAYING: "And let me tell the people of Madagascar, you have made us Africans proud. You have made Africa proud because now, Madagascar is providing, is contributing a solution to a global problem. We have been always used that it is Europe and Western Europe and other countries which do contribute to global problems." VARIOUS OF SACHETS AND BOXES OF CVO ON DISPLAY VARIOUS OF CVO BOXES BEING LOADED ONTO PLANE
- Embargoed: 27th July 2020 13:36
- Keywords: Artemisia annua COVID-19 Organics Chloroquine World Health Organisation herbalists plant-based COVID-19 "cure"
- Location: LAGOS, NIGERIA / DIANMANDIO, SENEGAL / ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR
- City: LAGOS, NIGERIA / DIANMANDIO, SENEGAL / ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR
- Country: Various
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA002CMN63X3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A worker prepares a fresh batch of Artemisia annua that will be used to produce tea and pills at the Lion Vert facility in Dianmandio, Senegal.
The race to find a cure for COVID-19 has sparked renewed interest in plants such as Artemisia annua, also known as sweet wormwood.
Madagascar's president, Andry Rajoelina, launched a remedy based on Artemisia in April. Several countries in Africa placed and received orders, despite warnings from the World Health Organisation that its efficacy was unproven.
Madagascar's "COVID-19 Organics" (CVO) was developed by the state-run Malagasy Institute of Applied Research.
Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Guinea Bissau were among the first to receive thousands of doses of COVID-19 Organics free of charge.
The tonic can be bought for around 40 U.S. cents per bottle domestically.
"And let me tell the people of Madagascar, you have made us Africans proud. You have made Africa proud because now, Madagascar is providing, is contributing a solution to a global problem. We have been always used that it is Europe and Western Europe and other countries which do contribute to global problems," Tanzanian Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi said in early May when he led a delegation to pick up a consignment of CVO.
Dakar-based Belgian agronomist Pierre Van Damme manages the production of artemisia-based pills and tea bags under the Lion Vert or "Green Lion" label.
"So, at the start of the coronavirus (pandemic) we had already noticed higher sales, but it was from well-off Senegalese people and expatriates who live here. They bought Artemisia to boost their immune system, then when the (Madagascar) president made his announcement, there was a big boom. All of a sudden we were in over our heads, we went from producing 3 to 4000 packets a month, to 2000 packets a day, and we are still not managing to satisfy the demand," he said.
Madagascar's Rajoelina has continued to extol its virtues, but WHO officials have expressed concern that people who drink the product might feel they are immune to COVID-19 and engage in risky behaviour.
"The Madagascar president seems sure of himself, but clearly it is dangerous to promote a cure without any scientific proof. Before the president's announcement we sent proposals for clinical studies (of the Artemisia) to every health ministry in Africa, we never received an answer. Now we are in the process of gathering funds with the help of artists and athletes in order to finance a clinical study approved by the World Health Organisation to prove that Artemisia is good against the coronavirus," Van Damme added.
Lateef Adetoye, a mechanic, lives with his family in Lagos, Nigeria. He grows various herbs in his yard and has come up with his own anti-coronavirus concoction.
''The way they are describing the coronavirus, it is like symptoms of malaria, so all these things that we mixed together, it can cure malaria leaves very well. Like this Dogonyaro leaves (Neem leaves), it has what we call Chloroquine inside so I believe if we use this one for coronavirus it will cure it 100 percent,'' Lateef said.
The WHO has said that the isolated compounds extracted from Artemisia are effective in malaria drugs, but that the plant itself cannot treat malaria.
Lateef is convinced that a relatively cheap and accessible COVID-19 cure already exists locally, which he believes can help keep medical bills down for the millions of Africans who already struggle to make ends meet.
''All these Oyibo (western) medicines that we are taking, they started from somewhere, let us try our own best, so when we try our own best, then we know whether our own can work for us. We don't need to go and meet anybody. At least God gave us all these leaves, all these roots to cure ourselves,'' he added.
But Africa's problem with testing may be a bigger problem than the various brews popping up around the continent.
The shortage of reliable data afflicts many African nations, with some governments reluctant to acknowledge epidemics or to expose their crumbling health systems to outside scrutiny.
Other nations simply cannot carry out significant testing because they are so ravaged by poverty and conflict.
By July 7, 4,200 tests per million people had been carried out across the continent, according to a Reuters analysis of figures from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a body set up by the African Union in 2017. That compares with averages of 7,650 in Asia and 74,255 in Europe.
(Seun Sanni, Christophe Van Der Perre, Gertruud Van Ettinge, Angela Ukomadu, Okwi Okoh)
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