Throughout ages and millennia, human societies across the world have always had well-established indigenous healthcare systems that helped sustain life and their respective civilisations.
It is, therefore, clear that no culture nor nation on earth has any monopoly over or exclusive rights to the application of pharmacology for the effective treatment of diseases. This draws from the fact that pharmacology has been a common therapeutic art of every culture on earth before the modern scientific wave of pharmaceutics.
It was, therefore, heartwarming news for Africa when Madagascar announced a locally manufactured drug for the cure of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
Madagascar, ‘quarantined’ around 400 kilometres off the East African country of Mozambique, instantly leapt out of obscurity.
The medical feat came through as a result of a collaboration between the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (MIRA) and the National Pharmacology Research Centre.
The herbal medicinal potion or drink, known as COVID ORGANICS (CVO), has since been stirring predictable controversies – between herbal medicine and big pharma drugs and outright racists that would never see anything good from Africa.
But the Malagasy President, Andry Rajoeiina, would not be browbeaten. He endorsed and launched the herbal drug for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. According to Rajoeiina, the thrust of promoting the locally-made herbal drug is not only to help save lives in his country and the world, but to also help raise funds that will be re-invested in more advanced medical and sundry scientific pursuits at the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research.
Africanews, quoted the President as saying: “All trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness has been proven in the reduction and elimination of symptoms of the COVID-19 patients in Madagascar”.
Herbal medicine, in pulverized or liquid form, known as ‘agbo’ across West Africa, is a common indigenous medicine among Black people in Africa. It has been used for both curative and preventative purposes since time immemorial.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) did not join the Halleluyah chorus for the indigenous Malagasy medical breakthrough. In its initial reactions, WHO officially declared that it had not recommended the drug as a cure for COVID-19, and, as such, warned against its prescription for the treatment of the disease. Upon such stance, the WHO tagged the nationally recommended use of Covid Organics as being tantamount to self-medication, as against medication by scientific prescription.
But Africans have roundly ignored the WHO on this, particularly since there is yet no known cure for the disease. Moreover, the Malagasy President had declared that the medication would be given away for free to the most vulnerable but sold at very low and affordable prices to those outside such bracket. He backed it up, deploying soldiers for door-to-door free distribution of Covid Organics.
In Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, pharmacies and supermarkets are said to be stocking up their shelves with CVO. And it’s been widely reported that no sooner were the drugs displayed than they disappeared from the shelves as a result of the relatively insatiable demand.
Experts at the Academy of Medicine of Madagascar have reassured residents of the island nation that it has duly established the medicinal properties of the herbal drug. But then, for thorough scientific self-assessment, the academy has put up a monitoring system to appraise the efficacy of the medicine across the various demographic spheres of its consumption. It equally explained that it was not putting up Covid Organics as an exclusive cure for COVID -19 and, therefore, upheld the individual’s discretionary choices. It also urged users to strictly comply with the recommended dosage.
According to local media reports, Rakoto Fanomezantsoa, a military doctor and director-general of Suavinandriana Hospital, has shed further light on Covid Organics. The doctor explained that one of the medicinal qualities of CVO is that it not only strengthens the immune system, it helps eliminate viruses as well.
Among the early African leaders to endorse the innovative indigenous medicine were the heads of state of Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cameroon, Comoros and Tanzania.
The miracle plant behind the global appeal of Covid Organics is known by the scientific name ‘Artemesia annua’, otherwise referred to as sweet wormwood, which belongs to the daisy family. Clinical studies carried out in Western laboratories, in efforts to ascertain the vaunted curative powers of Artemesia annua, have been rated as both interesting and promising.
The plant was introduced to Madagascar from Asia in the 1970s for the treatment of malaria, and forms the base of the popular drug, artemisinin.
Following a heated outcry across Africa against the WHO over the drug, it has since modified its stance. Matshidiso Moesi, WHO’s regional director for Africa, in a recent media briefing, declared: “ We are advising the government of Madagascar to take this product through a clinical trial and we are prepared to collaborate with them.”
Last month, visiting President of Guinea Bissau, Vinaro Sisoko Embalo, presented to the Nigerian head of state, President Muhamadu Buhari, a sample of Covid Organics as a gift from President Rajoeiina.
Upon praising the medical innovation from a fellow African country, Buhari called for its validation by Nigeria’s medical establishment.
Africa keeps on working out indigenous ways of solving her numerous problems without worrying much about Western bias. Whereas a kit for private testing of coronavirus is sold for £250 in London, Senegalese medical scientists have come up with an equally effective kit for an incredible price of $1.
Writing in The Guardian of London, Afua Hirsch noted: “The African continent has a stellar way of innovating its way out of problems – just look at how mobile money and fintech has turned it into one the most digitally savvy regions of the world.
“ It has been well documented how a patronising attitude towards East Asia is what allowed European countries to be caught by such surprise at the spread of this (coronavirus) disease. Now a similar mindset seems to ensure we don’t learn the lessons Africa has to offer in overcoming it.”
On French television, President Andry Rajoeiina of Madagascar put across a poser: “If it was a European country that had actually discovered this (Covid Organics) remedy, would there be so much doubt?”
He did not wait for a response.
And, on behalf of Africa, he declared: “CERTAINLY NOT!”