MADAGASCAR’S cabinet is split over the potency of its Covid Organics herbal remedy after its health minister requested international help to cope with a renewed surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Madagascar claimed that its Covid Organics remedy served both as a vaccine and a cure for the virus. However, the herbal remedy has not been subjected to any clinical trials, leaving the World Health Organisation (WHO) unable to accept it, prompting the Madagascan government to pull out of the global health body.
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina has expressed disgust that Covid Organics has not been considered because it was discovered by an African country. Following the impasse, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus held a virtual meeting with President Rajoelina to find a way forward and it was agreed that the drug will be subject to clinical trials.
Over recent week’s however, Madagascar has seen a rise in the number of Covid-19 fatalities, including two lawmakers. Health minister Ahmad Ahmad has subsequently asked the international community for help despite President Rajoelina asking government officials to distribute the herbal drink across the country, claiming it is an effective cure.
Hospital officials in the capital Antananarivo have said they are running out of beds as infections have surged in recent days. Subsequently, in a letter addressed to donors, health minister Ahmad made an urgent appeal to development agencies to come to Madagascar’s assistance.
In a swift denunciation of this, government spokeswoman Lalatiana Rakotozafy, said: “The government would like to express its dismay at the discovery of a letter signed by the minister of public health urgently requesting support in the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic. It is clear that many crucial points in the management of this health crisis have escaped the vigilance of the minister of public health.”
Mr Ahmad’s letter had read: “Over the past weeks, the Covid-19 epidemic has evolved in a very critical way in Madagascar with notable flare-ups in certain regions, particularly in Antananarivo.” It also itemised what it called its most urgent needs, which included oxygen bottles, 337 ventilators, 2.3m face masks, 697,000 pairs of gloves and 533,200 medical blouses.
According to the presidency, however, the health ministry’s appeal is a personal initiative, taken without consulting either the government or President Rajoelina. Most of Madagascar’s 26m inhabitants live in grinding poverty with limited access to healthcare and regularly take herbal teas for a variety of common ailments.
To date, Madagascar has recorded 8,162 coronavirus cases, including 69 deaths. However, the government has blamed the recent jump in cases on increased testing capacity and added that positive Covid-19 cases did not take Covid-Organics or only took it sporadically without following the prescribed dosage.
On June 4, Madagascar’s education minister Rijasoa Andriamanana was sacked after announcing a plan to spend $2.2m on sweets and lollipops for children to ease the bitter taste of Covid Organics. News of the expense sparked a national outrage and the order was cancelled by President Rajoelina.