COVID-19 solution and official indifference
The COVID-19 remains a global challenge. Since its outbreak in China’s Wuhan, and its continued global proliferation and the resultant deaths, the world has been locked in the search for solutions, both prophylactic and curative. Given a loose multilateral response, countries are challenging their respective research communities to find solutions. Both funds and material assistance have been thrown their way to achieve that at goal and spare their citizens and indeed humanity of the scourge of COVID-19. The Chinese Academy of Science and its ancillary research institutes are in the forefront in China. In the United States, it is Johns Hopkins University, National Health Institutes and the whole range of its pharmaceutical companies, are in the race for a cure. In Britain, it is Oxford University and Imperial College of the University of London that are in the vanguard of research effort in the country.
The expediency of finding a cure for COVID-19, a global medical emergency crucial to preventing the death of millions of people cannot be over-stressed. In a few African countries, such as Senegal and Madagascar, there are ongoing efforts towards producing Africa’s remedy. A host of others are waiting for foreign aid and contraction of fresh loans to deal with the health emergency. Some are even importing foreign doctors to the chagrin of their health personnel. Nigeria belongs to this latter category, a country that all things being equal is expected to lead the continent in the search for an African solution.
It is no longer news that a handful of Nigerian researchers have come up with claims of a cure for COVID-19. These efforts need to be taken seriously and subjected to clinical trial and certification. From Senegal to Madagascar, Africa and indeed the black race are endowed. Back home, herbal medicine researchers like Prof. Maurice Iwu, a professor of pharmacognosy and Chairman of Imo State Committee on COVID-19 and member of Anambra State’s, Professor Joseph Akpa, provost, Luminar International College of Alternative Medicine, Enugu, and Dr. Ajayi Jeremiah, a trado-medical practitioner have taken up the gauntlet. Others include a group of scientists led by Professors Ademola Ladele and Rasheed Awodoyin at the University of Ibadan that has recommended a plant called Euphorbia Hirtaas, a herbal alternative to dealing with the attendant diseases caused by the COVID-19 such as dry cough, respiratory failures and fever. Yet other manifestations include Rev. Fr (Dr.) Anselm Adodo, a Benedictine monk who superintends Pax Herbal Centre, Ewu, Edo State, which has produced herbal drugs on various ailments that are available in all Catholic Church parishes in different parts of Nigeria.
In the context of the current research for a cure for COVID-19, PaxHerbal Centre has developed a novel drug called CVD PLUS for the specific treatment of COVID-19. This drug contains “herbal and active phytoconstituents with documented scientific evidence based on clinical reports of their efficacy and safety.” These researchers are involved in the process of finding remedies to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Besides, three universities, namely, Bauchi State University, Ilaro Polytechnic and University of Benin have invented ventilators. A ventilator is one of the major equipment that health workers have used to stabilize COVID-19 patients globally. Indeed, Professor Babatunde Lawal Salako, the director general, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, who confirmed the receipt of various drugs on COVID-19 pandemic, has lamented the lack of funds to conduct clinical trials to establish their usefulness. This is the crux of the matter at the moment: official indifference to research and development even in medical sciences.
Given the above, the pertinent question is why is the government not supporting relevant institutions such as NIMR to subject claims of cure to clinical trials for certification? To our knowledge, despite, huge donation into COVID-19 fund, our local researchers have been left in the lurch confirming the prevalent worry by some concerned analysts about the obvious lack of synergies between these practitioners rooting for coronavirus remedies, the nation’s health authorities and the drug manufacturers. Another elephant in the room, in this regard is the persistent rivalry between orthodox and herbal medicine practitioners. That too has led to policy inertia in our country that has produced some of the best medics for most parts of the developed economies as we have consistently noted here.
It is interesting to note that a few African countries are forward-looking and have indeed come up with curative innovations exploring the vast flora in the continent’s ecological system. For example, Senegal has reportedly invented ventilators and testing kits, which are on offer for sale at very cheap prices. Also Madagascar announced a ‘‘100 per cent cure’’ from its herbal-made “COVID Organic” or “CVO”. For these two countries, their presidents are apparently pushing the research endeavour.
It stands to reason therefore that Nigerian researchers urgently require a buy-in by our government and their claimed curative products validated through existing control protocols. We do know for a fact that our repertoire of herbal products has been effective in curing a catalogue of local infections from time immemorial. Why countries like China have managed to thrust their herbal products into international market we have more or less adopted contemptuous attitude towards our herbal product. We note an expert opinion at the weekend in this newspaper by the pioneer Director-General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja, Charles Wambebe, a professor of pharmacology who said that NIPRD should have capability to conduct relevant research and even certify claims by various sources. The institute has a now under-funded virology laboratory, among others in Abuja. Professor Wambebe, a veteran consultant to WHO says, “Africa should look inward in search of COVID-19 solution.” We believe him.
It has been the case that research processes in Africa are predominantly funded by western donor agencies. It is disheartening that some African leaders would rather enlist into the pharmaceutical conspiracy to maximise profit by the global misfortune and undermine cheapest remedy for COVID-19 instead of supporting research and domestic creative processes. This is why the late Nigerian Social Scientist, Professor Claude Ake once lamented that the problem had never been development but that development was never on the agenda of the African ruling cliques. With a largely prostrate and rudderless political elite, it would be idealistic to expect them to seize the opportunity of these COVID-19 remedial products to thrust the country on the path of development by unleashing the productive opportunities that the global health emergency has engendered. We say to the Nigerian government: make hay while the sun shines. We have the human resources to lead Africa on this score. The trouble has always been a failure of leadership.
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