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WHO backs local therapies for COVID-19

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(Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

•Confirms ongoing clinical trials in Nigeria, S’Africa, others
As the African Traditional Medicine Day (ATMD) holds today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, has harped on promotion of the continent’s rich and diverse medicinal plants and herbs in improving well-being.

She said for generations, the vast majority of people in Africa had relied on traditional medicine as trusted and affordable source of healthcare needs.

The Botswanan submitted that as part of the COVID-19 response, promising local therapies were emerging.

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She said: “In Cameroun for example, the Ministry of Health has approved two products as complementary therapies for COVID-19. Madagascar’s herbal remedy, COVID-Organics Plus Curative, is in Phase III trials and encouraging preliminary results have been reported. We look forward to the final results of this trial, and of trials underway for different products in 12 other African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa.”

Moet noted that with the support of national and district authorities, traditional health practitioners are leading the charge in building buy-in for COVID-19 prevention measures and referring patients for timely care. This, she explained, is contributing to strengthening and building confidence in health systems throughout Africa.

The physician said, at the highest levels, the pandemic has improved awareness of the value of traditional medicine, adding that investing more in research and development would harness homegrown solutions to improve well-being on the continent and other parts of the world.

The official went on: “Natural remedies are burgeoning in popularity in western countries and have a long history in China, India and other places. Major pharmaceutical companies are also looking to Africa for new active ingredients. With the right partnerships and investments, tried-and-tested African traditional medicines could find a broad global market.

“WHO and other multilateral organisations are playing key roles in supporting capacity development in the traditional medicine sector, including the development of local manufacturing.

“Recently, we looked back on the progress achieved in the Second Decade of African Traditional Medicine from 2011 to 2020 and in the implementation of the Regional Strategy on Enhancing the Role of Traditional Medicine in Health Systems 2013–2023.”

Moeti said WHO’s evaluation revealed that 40 African nations now have policy frameworks for traditional medicine, up from only eight in 2000.

The public health specialist said communities have been mobilised to participate in raising awareness on traditional medicine.

Similarly, Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, told journalists, yesterday, that to achieve rapid development of the herbal medicine industry in Nigeria, there was need for both herbal medicine practitioners and researchers to collaborate.

To this end, she said her organisation set up an herbal medicine product committee in March 2019 before the advent of the novel coronavirus, to advance research in herbal medicine.

Adeyeye made the disclosure in Abuja ahead of today’s continental event.

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The NAFDAC DG, in a statement by the agency’s Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, confirmed many of the herbal products are being subjected to review by different agencies of government nationwide.

The pharmacist advised Nigerians to use herbal medicines with caution to prevent avoidable deaths and complications.

To the Director, Pax Herbal Clinics Ewu, Edo State, Rev Fr. Anselm Adodo, traditional medicine is a holistic discipline involving use of indigenous herbalism combined with aspects of African spirituality.

He said about 80 per cent of Africa’s population relies on traditional medicine for their basic health needs.

“In some cases, traditional medicine is the only healthcare service available, accessible and affordable to many people on the continent. In this case, the significant contribution of traditional medicine as a major provider of healthcare services in Africa cannot be underestimated,” he added.

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