The novel coronavirus pandemic has ravaged many nations of the world, resulting in a halt to socio-economic activities in many countries.
Here in Nigeria, the case is not any different. Most Nigerian states have recorded cases of Coronavirus except two: Kogi and Cross River states.
Movement restrictions have also been introduced in some parts of the country, as government at state and federal levels work to contain the spread of the disease.
Nigeria’s first COVID-19 case was an Italian who arrived in Lagos from his home country on a business trip mid-March.
Since then, the number of cases recorded in the country has increased steadily, with daily reported cases now recorded in hundreds.
Even though the index case has now been treated and discharged, it hasn’t stopped the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.
COVID-19 virus affects the respiratory tract of infected persons, causing difficulty in breathing. Symptoms include a dry cough and other flu-related symptoms.
At the moment, there is no known cure for COVID-19 but studies are ongoing to find a suitable treatment and vaccine across the world. Many countries are embarking on homegrown research methods to find a suitable cure to the Coronavirus.
Countries such as China, Israel as well as Madagascar are developing solutions to the pandemic, which has stalled global economies, infected over four million people and killed hundreds of thousands of people.
China, where the disease was first identified, is reported to have found a vaccine against the disease.
The United States, on the other hand, is conducting clinical trials of new medications, with the controversial chloroquine at the center of the effort. Iran is reported to have also found a suitable treatment for the disease, and other nations such as Italy, France, Spain among others are carrying out research to find a suitable cure. Studies are still ongoing worldwide to understand the disease.
It is noteworthy to mention that Nigeria at the moment is focusing on treating the disease with tropical remedies that are used to treat the symptoms of Coronavirus which include cough, sore throat, difficulty in breathing.
In the meantime, preventive measures have been identified to be the best way to protect one from being infected by the virus. This includes maintaining proper hygiene, hand washing and sanitizing methods, maintaining social distancing, using a face mask, among others.
As the race to beat the disease grows, perhaps it is about time, Nigeria not just invest in its health sector, but put more focus on enhancing medical and pharmacological research as a country, to find homegrown solutions to health problems.
There are peculiar diseases that affect Nigeria and Africans which do not have a global reach such as Lassa Fever, Yellow fever and Ebola.
However, adequate research conducted at home to explore local and traditional medicines that would clinically be tested and confirmed to treat these and many more health challenges appears to be slow.
Madagascar, for instance, has produced a local tonic acclaimed to be helpful in the treatment of coronavirus. The Coronavirus Organics or CVO as it is called, has generated a lot of debate among key players in the global health sector.
Even though health institutions such as the WHO and the Africa CDC are yet to endorse the tonic or embark on quality assessment of the product, the country has continued to use the product, having said it had undergone proper testing in its own labs. Many other African countries have now begun to order this local herb even without endorsements.
However, in Nigeria, the local medicine or traditional medicine sector appears to be growing popular despite little attention and investment both from the government and larger pharmaceutical companies.
It is no longer new to see people both online and offline seeking herbal medication to treat their different health challenges ranging from Malaria to HIV. Whereas some people attest to their viability in treating their conditions, there are some people who have not accepted nor recognized the use of these herbal medicines.
According to a research paper titled, ‘Traditional Medicine in Nigeria: Current Status and the Future’, written by Dr. Ekeanyanwu Chukwuma Raphael, a lecturer at the Imo state University, Owerri and published in the Research Journal of Pharmacology, African traditional medicine is the oldest and perhaps the most diverse.
The traditions of collecting plants as well as processing herbal remedies and applying them have been handed down from generation to generation.
However, due to the rising cost of Western medicine, the people in African countries are increasingly turning to traditional medicine as an affordable alternative.
The research found that intense and sustained pre-inception educational campaigns on the affordability of traditional medicine through solidarity funding, low affordable premiums could promote the sector.
The usage of plants, plants extracts or plant-derived pure chemicals to treat diseases in Nigeria has become a therapeutic modality that has stood the test of time.
Today, several pharmacological classes of drugs include a natural product prototype.
It is therefore noteworthy to call on all relevant stakeholders such as the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja, and the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Lagos, to do more to blaze the trail of developing traditional medicine to meet world-class standards.
As the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic continues, these institutions, government, individuals and pharmaceutical companies should not relent in their research efforts to put Nigeria on the world map of countries who searched inwards for remedies, at a time when the world was brought to its knees.
It is an opportunity to raise the country’s flag high, as one of those that found an indigenous remedy that saved millions of lives.