COVID-19 AND SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS

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Ayo Oyoze Baje argues the need to explore alternative methods as remedy.

The ongoing global search for sustainable solutions to raging tide of the Coronavirus pandemic brings to mind the valuable experiences gathered while growing up in the rural area in the ‘sixties. That was especially so in my father’s farmland at Ayere in the then Kabba Province of the Northern Region. They remain cherished. And the reasons are because we lived close to Mother Nature, gained from its helping hands which we still find useful till this day.

One of these features was the use of different herbs in the treatment of various ailments, and they proved efficacious. For instance, some of those herbs came in handy whenever a new child was born in the family. They were prepared in hot water as what the Ebiras call Enyi-Ojozi and given to the young one; to ward off several diseases. A particular herb called ireru in Ebira language was used to prepare hot soup and given to the nursing mother to drink. The aim was to replenish the calories she lost during childbirth and reinvigorate the production of new red blood cells. Again, it worked!

Furthermore, the minor injuries sustained during cultivation and weeding of farmland as well as snake bites were treated with herbs. Malaria fever was combated with steamed neem leaves. We drank the infusion as well as inhaled the steam, while covered with calico clothes, until we sweated all the toxins out!

This inspiring scenario therefore, brings to mind the announcement of the discovery of Corona-Organics to do away with the virus, by the President of Madagascar, Andy Rajoelina. While publicly proffering it as a cure, as he drank out of a bottle of the drug, he enthused that, it has shown “encouraging results in fighting off the coronavirus”. That was on April, 20, 2020.

Not only did he lift the lockdown on three major cities in Madagascar but has gone ahead to make it compulsory for school children, given free of charge. The drug, produced at the country’s Institute of Applied Research comes as a herbal tea with Artemisia annua, as the main ingredient. It is a green, leafy plant that emits a striking smell known as sweet wormwood.

So far, it has cured the few people that it has been tested on. It gives results within seven days. One of Madagascar’s top medical doctors, Dr. Charles Andrianjara says that it should be used for prevention. Let it be noted that though the country has recorded 121 cases no death has been reported, so far. And Senegal that has taken the drug and recommended it to the citizens has had no cause for regrets.

Yes, the World Health Organization WHO) may have dismissed it with a wave of the hand, stating that there are “no short cuts” and that “tests are on the way”. But is it all the local drugs in different countries that WHO has to recommend for people to treat their peculiar health challenges? Don’t we have evidence-based herbal cures, significant to different people and places? Must all drugs for various diseases come from the western world? The answer is a concerted “no”!

The COVID-19 has come as a wake-up call to different countries to do the needful, when it comes to looking inwards to finding solutions to endemic diseases. That makes a sense of the position of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan that traditional cure to the virus is on the way. He had earlier suggested a combination of bitter leaf, onions and parts of neem tree as a means of possible cure.

One’s candid suggestion therefore, is that instead of outright dismissal of claims to cures for the diseases, NAFDAC should come in with laboratory tests to verify such claims without political colouration.

With countries such as Cuba, Israel, India and now Madagascar coming forth with their own drugs Nigerians are waiting to know the outcome of the claim by Prof. Maurice Iwu, to having a cure. The Nigerian professor of pharamcognosy, from the University of Nigeria Nsukka(UNN) who is the Chairman of the Imo State Task Force on COVID-19 has presented the plant-based patented treatment to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. He has also forwarded it to the United States, to test its veracity in the cure of coronavirus. It was produced to cure SARS.

Coincidentally, another Nigerian, Dr. Babafemi Taiwo, a medical professor who is the chief of infectious disease at Northwestern Medicine has played a major role in the development of the anti-virus drug, Remdesivir which has received the commendation of posting “fantastic result”. It was originally developed to treat Ebola virus.

The clinical trial of the drug ran with the full supervision of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases(NIAD). It has been tested on 1,063 people and has impressed Dr. Anthony Fauci who heads the agency. Said he: “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time of recovery”.

The lessons from all these medical research trajectories are for countries to look inward for likely solutions to evolving health challenges, be proactive, decisive and fund their research institutes well.

Furthermore, they should shed themselves of inferiority complex, do more with regard to researches into the use of local herbs that have been effective in treating ailments in the past, as India has been doing.

Also, the private sector should be brought into the picture to assist in funding some researches or breathe life into useful products that have been dormant at the pilot stage. The media has an important role to play in showcasing such products of creative ingenuity to the public, because the institutes cannot afford to be speaking to themselves!

It behoves on governments – both at the state and federal levels – to sustain and build upon the infrastructure put in place to treat epidemic diseases such as the current coronavirus. Whatever happened to the previous isolation centres that came up for victims of Ebola virus back in 2014!

Again, one must emphasize the need for government to earmark more percentage of the annual budgetary allocations to healthcare delivery. A wealthy nation comes from its healthy citizens.