Madagascar: Two African Leaders Under Fire for Touting Unproven COVID-19 'Preventatives'

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African health experts have called for the heads of government in Madagascar and Guinea to act responsibly after they promoted solutions to protect against Covid-19 without any scientific backing to support their claims.

Covid-organics is a new preventative and "cure" touted by the President of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, while his Guinean counterpart Alpha Conde has been pushing for people to drink hot water.

Covid-organics comes from Artemisia, a plant that has had some success in dealing with malaria. But its effectiveness in preventing or treating Covid-19 has not been adequately tested.

"It is a medicine for which the scientific evidence has not yet been established and which risks damaging the health of the population, in particular that of children," according to a statement released by the National Academy of Medicine of Madagascar (ANAMEM).

The elixir was distributed to schoolchildren in Fianarantsoa, a city in one of the three regions hit by the coronavirus.

ANAMEM also specified in its statement that according to Malagasy law, only health professionals in health facilities are authorised to distribute medicines, not administrative structures.

"We appeal to the sense of responsibility of the competent authorities and the parents of pupils," it added.

On social media, one Malagasy pharmacist said she would not use Covid-organics on her child, saying, "It's unethical. It's still in clinical trials. What were the results of the two previous phases?"

Désolée mais ce ne sera pas utilisé sur MON enfant ! NON, je refuse. Ce n'est pas éthique. C'est encore en essai clinique. Quels ont été les résultats des 2 phases préalables? Je suis pharmacienne et je sais ce que je dis: c'est NON. #covid19mg #madagascar - Aurey Ra (@nwnwmisa) April 19, 2020

Madagascar has had 121 cases of Covid-19, with 58 who have already recovered and no deaths.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guiterres warned that the world is facing a "dangerous epidemic of misinformation" regarding Covid-19, which includes spreading wrong, false or harmful advice in how to prevent contracting the highly contagious disease.

Mentholated ointment, alcohol and others

On the streets of Conakry, the capital of Guinea, President Alpha Condé, wearing a mask, called on citizens to maintain social distancing and to wash their hands. But he also advocated putting mentholated gel in their nostrils and drinking hot water to prevent Covid-19, two ideas that have no scientific basis.

Quand le président de la république, Alpha Condé, propage de fausses idées sur le Coronavirus : 《 mettre du mentholatum dans le nez et boire souvent de l'eau chaude 》#Kibaro #COVID19Gn - - Guineematin (@Guineematin) April 9, 2020

Nairobi's Governor Mike Sonko had been distributing care packages to the poor throughout the city and said he had included small bottles of Hennessy cognac, alleging that it would protect the drinker from Covid-19.

WHO refuted claims that alcohol has preventative or curative properties. Local distributors of the French liquor issued a statement after videos of Sonko were widely distributed claiming this cognac cure.

"Hennessy would like to stress that the consumption of our brand or any other alcoholic beverage does not protect against the virus," said Anne-Claire Delamarre, Hennessy's country manager, in a statement.

The WHO has attempted to discredit some theories preventative measures circulating the globe, for example exposure to sunlight or UV, taking a hot bath, exposure to snow and hand dryers, which the organisation says do not kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes coronavirus.

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