COVID-19: TRADITIONAL MEDICINE TO THE RESCUE

Hauwa Abubakar Anaja

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BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 10 :Symbol photo of the coronavirus crisis. Diagnosis. COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 on March 10, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Health authorities around the world are concerned about the novel coronavirus. More and more countries are reporting diseases and new infections. (Photo by Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images)

The novel coronavirus pandemic has continued to wreck havoc across the globe, even as the search for a vaccine against it is yet to yield positive results.

Like many other countries around the world, coronavirus also known as covid-19 has devastated Nigeria’s health system, economy and social life. As of May 23, 2020, over five point two million cases of the disease have been reported globally, while over three hundred and forty deaths were recorded worldwide.

In Nigeria, there are over seven thousand, five hundred confirmed cases with more than two thousand, one hundred discharged from hospital and over two hundred fatalities.

An unprecedented economic recession is looming with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting drastic drop of minus three point zero percent in the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Presently, there is no specific medicine for the killer decease. What we have today are various kinds of treatment of the symptoms of covid-19. There is still no known cure for the disease. Scientists and world leaders have estimated December 2021 as the earliest possible time for a cure to covid-19 to be developed. That is one and a half years away. That’s a long time to wait. The world cannot wait for vaccines while people are dying in their thousands.

It is for this reason that many countries are embarking on researches to find a suitable home-grown cure for covid-19. England, China, Israel, Iran, Madagascar and many other countries have, or are developing solutions to the pandemic. The USA on the other hand, is conducting clinical trials of new medications, with the controversial chloroquine at the centre of the effort.

Without a one-size-fits-all solution to covid-19, some governments, doctors, scientists, and individuals around the world are turning to traditional medicine for remedy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as the knowledge, skills and practises based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, used in the maintenance of health and in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness. Traditional medicine is often referred to as alternative or complimentary medicine.

Traditional medicine is widely practised in China, India and Africa. Although traditional medicine has long been in use, the WHO says there is little systematic evidence regarding its safety and efficacy.

For instance, in response to the launch of Covic Organics (CVO), a herbal medicine developed by Madagascar to treat covic-19, WHO said only products which are effective through scientific study will be endorsed. Recently, the organization held a virtual meeting with seventy African traditional medicine experts where they unanimously agreed that clinical trials must be conducted for all medicines without exception.

According to EC Raphael in a research study published on Research Gate,  African traditional medicine is the oldest and perhaps the most diverse of all medicine systems. The traditions of collecting plants as well as processing herbal remedies and applying them have been handed down from generation to generation. The rising cost of Western medicine means that the people in African countries are increasingly turning to traditional medicine as an affordable alternative.

This is not surprising because, according to him, about forty-one percent of Nigerians use traditional medication as first choice medication for cure and do so mostly due to poverty and inability to afford the more expensive modern medicine.

The study revealed that medicinal plants have played a key role in the world health care with about eighty percent of Africans depending on phyto-medicine which has shown a wide range of uses in the treatment of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, sickle cell anaemia, diabetes and hypertension.

The WHO and the Nigeria government must come to terms with the fact that orthodox and traditional medicines are complementary of each other. Therefore, urgent steps should be taken to close the gap between them in order to save humanity from this pandemic and other diseases that could come up in the future. After all, statistics show that forty-five percent of the components of orthodox medicine in Nigeria have their origin in herbal medicine.

As the search for a cure for the coronavirus gathers momentum, Nigeria must not only elevate and strengthen the status of its health sector in terms of budgetary allocations and investments, it must also make medical and pharmaceutical research focal points in order to encourage home grown solutions to health challenges.

Recently, Nigeria’s Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu announced that the ministry had commenced the verification of claims submitted to it by some individuals and institutions for treatment and cure of covid-19 in Nigeria.

The Director-General of National Agency For Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye also said the agency had started working on covid-19 potential remedy drugs submitted to it by Nigerians. She explained that four submissions were made after the agency called for expression of interests for the covid-19 related medicines from researchers and practitioners.

Also, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said government was conducting a study on the efficacy of some drugs in treating covid-19 in about five centre in the country. He said hydroxy chloroquine was one of them.

Indeed, Nigeria has deployed enormous resources and energy to its search for remedy for covid-19. However, the process must be properly coordinated and driven by the Ministry of Health. A situation in which agencies of government which are supposed to work in synergy, appear to be duplicating functions and working at cross-purposes is not desirable at this time.

This is the time that all relevant agencies, the Ministry of Health, the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Nigeria Academy of Science (NAS), Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC), NAFDAC, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and universities in the country should collaborate and come up with a remedy for the covid-19 pandemic pending when a vaccine will be developed.