Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Made-in-Madagascar herbal remedy for COVID-19 selling well

It's not often that Madagascar makes it into the main international news. We were in the country a year or two ago while it was undergoing crucial presidential elections, and it still barely made the BBC. And, when it does manage international attention, it is usually for all the wrong reasons (government corruption, deforestation of irreplaceable animal habitat, bubonic plague, etc).
The latest press coverage is another in that series. Madagascan president Andry Rajoelina is heavily promoting a made-in-Madagascar remedy for COVID-19 - a kind of herbal tea made from local ingredients including the artemisia plant. The herbal drink, selling under the name COVID-Organics or CVO, was "tested" on 20 people over three weeks, and President Rajoelina has declared himself well satisfied with it, even though some have complained that it is very bitter and leads to stomach upsets.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Madagascar Institute of Health has warned against the magic remedy, saying that it is unproven and potentially dangerous, as has the World Health Organization, which warns that such a product may detract from proven methods like social distancing and hand-washing while offering no real clinical advantage.
But several African countries have already signed on to the remedy, excited by the prospect of a potentially "world-saving" made-in-Africa solution to the pandemic, and by President Rajoelina's strong personal endorsements. Madagascar is currently shipping the drink to Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Comoros and the Republic of Congo, all countries that can ill-afford to let yet another virus run rampant through their people, and all countries that have poor health facilities and almost non-existent coronavirus reporting capabilities.

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