uMhlonyane, a traditional herb, is known for curing infections. File picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency (ANA)
uMhlonyane, a traditional herb, is known for curing infections. File picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency (ANA)

Traditional healers in Cameroon overwhelmed by people seeking herbal treatments for Covid-19

By Songezo Ndlendle Time of article published May 13, 2020

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Cape Town - As countries around the world work around the clock to find the cure for the deadly coronavirus, and questions mount over Madagascar's " unproven cure" for Covid-19, traditional healers in Cameroon say they are being overwhelmed by the number of people seeking herbal medicine for treatment of the virus.  

The rush for traditional healing comes despite warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the herbal cure for Covid-19 is unproven.

The WHO this week repeatedly warned that the Covid-Organics infusion, which Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has touted as a remedy against the deadly coronavirus, has not been clinically tested.

According to a local news publication, President Rajoelina batted away criticism for promoting a homegrown "remedy" for Covid-19, charging that the West has a condescending attitude toward traditional African medicine.

"If it wasn't Madagascar, and if it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt? I don't think so," he told French media in an interview.

The Covid-Organics was invented by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research as a herbal drink that can both prevent and cure Covid-19, and has already been distributed to schoolchildren across Madagascar.

Several countries in Africa have already put in orders for purchasing herbal drink. 

On Wednesday, deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission  (AUC) Kwesi Quartey tweeted Madagascar's health ministry has agreed to collaborate with the AU and Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) to explore further the remedy they have discovered. 

“Excited to update you that, the Republic of MadagascarCure through its ministry of health, has agreed to collaborate with the AU and Africa CDC to explore further, the remedy they have discovered for the treatment of Covid-19 to benefit the continent at large,” he wrote.

Cameroon has more than 2,500 cases of Covid-19 and 121 deaths.  But medical doctors there have  caution against the use of herbal medicine for the coronavirus.

Traditional healer Dewah, who only uses a first name, says his chain of herbal medicine clinics across Cameroon have been flooded with patients since the March outbreak of the coronavirus, the Voice of America (VOA) news reported.

He spoke via a messaging application from the southwestern town of Kumba.

Dewah says in the past two months he has received at least 800 people from Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad, who say they are rushing for African herbal medicine because they have been told there is no modern cure for Covid-19.

The demand for herbal medicine is so high, Dewah says, that he cannot not treat some patients because he has run short of the potions made from plants he harvests from the forest.

Despite a lack of scientific evidence, he claims the potions can treat all the symptoms of Covid-19 and even save the infected from death.

Dianne Sop, a traditional healer in Yaounde, said in the last month she too has received about 200 patients seeking treatment for the coronavirus, according to VOA.

Sop said on Tuesday morning alone she received 10 patients but had to send four away because she was still waiting for more herbal medicines.

Medical researchers, doctors, and the Cameroon government have urged patients not to rely on traditional medicine for Covid-19 and to instead seek treatment at hospitals.

Douala city pharmacist Merilyne Peyou said many Cameroonians do not live near hospitals but have easy access to traditional medicine.  

She said many drugs sold in hospitals and pharmacies in Africa originate from herbs and tree leaves that were effectively used to treat Africans before the arrival of modern medicine. 

The only challenges of African herbal medicine, said Peyou, are that they are difficult to preserve, may become toxic, and healers don’t always know what dosage to prescribe.

The WHO has noted that the use of products to treat Covid-19 that have not been robustly investigated can put people in danger.

In a statement on 4 May, the organisation said untested and unproven medicines give a false sense of security and distract from proven measures such as hand washing and physical distancing.

African News Agency (ANA)

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