As the coronavirus spread across the African continent, leaders put their countries under strict lockdown measures. The President of Madagascar Andry Rajoelina last month launched an herbal remedy that he claimed could prevent and cure the disease.
The coronavirus disease has killed more than 252,000 and infected at least 3.6 million people globally. The announcement of this cure caught medical experts, who have scrambled to find a cure for the, by surprise.
Rajoelina, a former DJ who in 2009 at the age of 34 became the continent’s youngest national leader, claimed at the launch that the remedy, named Covid-Organics, had already cured two people.
“This herbal tea gives results in seven days,” Rajoelina, 45, told journalists and diplomats in April. Soldiers have since been going door-to-door in the Indian Ocean island country, which has reported 149 cases and no fatalities, dispensing the concoction.
What is in the supposed coronavirus cure?
According to the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research, the herbal remedy is produced from the plant artemisia. Artemisia was first imported into the island nation in the 1970s from China to treat malaria. The herbal remedy also include other indigenous herbs.
It is now marketed in bottles as an herbal tea, while Rajoelina has said clinical trials are under way in Madagascar to produce a form that can be injected into the body.
Is it safe or effective?
Following Rajoelina’s claims, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised people against using untested remedies for coronavirus.
The UN health agency and WHO in a statement said: “Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world. Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical”.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also warned people against using unproven remedies. “There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the coronavirus. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume,” the CDC said.
Meanwhile, the African Union said it was in discussion with Madagascar with a view to obtain technical data regarding the safety and efficiency of the herbal remedy.
Rajoelina criticised the WHO’s stance against the herbal remedy. He says they are opposing the remedy because it came from a “poor African country”. “If it were an European country that discovered this remedy, would there be so many doubts?” he said in a recent interview with French broadcasters France 24 and Radio France Internationale.
In an attempt to reassure people and brush aside safety concerns, Rajoelina took a dose of Covid-Organics at the launch event and said it was safe to be given to children.
Has it been exported?
Several African countries have either placed orders or have received consignments of the remedy.
Tanzania, Chad and The Gambia have confirmed receipt of the coronavirus herbal remedy from Madagascar. Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo also received a shipment of the beverage donated by the Madagascan leader.
The coronavirus has spread to all countries in Africa with Lesotho being the last to record a case. As of today, at least 2,386 people across the continent have died from the virus.