Nigeria: COVID-19 - the Madagascar Challenge and Nigeria's Traditional Medicine Practitioners

(file photo).
25 June 2020

David-Chyddy Eleke  writes on claims by Rev Fr Arazu of inventing a herbal drug for COVID-19 while juxtaposing the Madagascar herbal mixture and the possibility of traditional medicine practitioners in Nigeria utilising a rich blend of herbs and roots to combat the rampaging pandemic

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari took delivery of a large consignment of COVID-19 herbal remedy, a product that allegedly cures the virus, and produced in Madagascar. The drugs were delivered by the president of Guinea Bisau, President Umaro Embalo.

Buhari, receiving the consignment said he would wait for science to authenticate it before it could be put to use.

But back in Madagascar, President of the country, Andry Rajoelini had claimed that the remedy was already working 'wonders' for its people against the disease. This may have also prompted the purchase of the drug by the Ghanaian government and even Guinea Bissau.

Nigeria parades a huge number of traditional medicine practitioners who have also laid claims to several inventions which cures other diseases, and most people believe that if given the opportunity, traditional medicine practitioners can doing a surprise with the invention of the drug for COVID-19.

Dr Timothy Nkem, though a medical doctor told THISDAY that he cannot expressly dismiss the place of herbal medicine in the society. "I have been a medical doctor for several years, but I can testify to miracles that herbal remedies have worked in the lives of some of my patients. It may not be the same for everybody, but truth is there are people whose systems are more at home with those local drugs," he said.

Already, the Chairman of Anambra State Traditional Medicine Board, Rev Fr Raymond Arazu has laid claims to the invention of a drug against the virus. In a recent interview with THISDAY, Father Arazu, a Holy Ghost father of the Catholic Church and a renowned traditional medicine practitioner of over 50 years practice, who is in his 90s, and fondly referred to as the living ancestor described the the invention of a herbal drug for COVID-19 by Madagascar as a challenge to Nigeria.

He said, "I cannot imagine a small nation like Madagascar boasting of a remedy for the novel Coronavirus, while Nigerian government is yet to accept the fact that some traditional medicine practitioners in Nigeria including himself have already invented a cure for the ailment."

Arazu said that immediately after the news of the outbreak of the disease in China filtered out in December last year, his team, led by himself and his nephew, Mr Reginald Arazu, graduate of Chemistry, a known scientist and a traditional medicine practitioner went to work.

"We studied the symptoms of the disease and found out that it operates like every other viral disease, except a little difference, which is that it is airborne. We cure viral disease here, and all we needed to do was to look at its symptoms, and now ensure that we find drugs that can work more effectively in curing most of those symptoms exhibited by the patients of the virus.

"We came up with this drug (beckoning on a sachet powder on his table). We named it Chioma. We have treated patients who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 here, but when people come to consult with us and they tell us the symptoms, for the ones we suspect COVID-19, we have treated them. But what we will not do is to treat anyone who comes to us knowing he has the COVID-19. We simply tell them to contact NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control), because we are not allowed to treat them. But if someone comes and tells us the symptoms of his sickness, sometimes we suspect COVID-19 and we treat them and they get well."

Arazu said there are other members of the Anambra Traditional Medicine Board who have also invented supposed cure for the COVID-19, and that they have met with the representatives of the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano who has also promised to push forward the invention to the federal government for approval.

Speaking of the World Health Organisation (WHO), usual dismissal of herbal inventions, Arazu regretted that those who knows nothing about the efficacy of herbal medicine are condemning inventions from Africa for the novel virus, when it has not been able to come up with solution themselves.

"They call us unorthordox medicine, but in the real sense, traditional drugs are the orthodox ones, while they are the unorthordox ones. Traditional Medicine has always been there from the begining of creation. I have been in this business for over 50 years. I am a priest, I am not doing this to make money but my own way of helping humanity.

"This drug (Chioma) underwent very thorough research before we came up with it. Though we have been told that the state governor will help see to its approval, but we know that the virus we are up against cannot wait for all the beaurocratic bottlenecks of government, so time is of essence."

Reginald Arazu who manages Arazu's health facility in Awka speaking on his findings on the COVID-19 and the stages the new invention went through and it's composition said, "Let me tell you, this COVID-19 is like every other viral disease, except with slight difference. Once a virus enters your body, all the soldiers of the body will rush to it to attack it, and while they are battling the virus, they leave other ailment in the body, giving those ones the opportunity to thrive. That is why it is more dangerous for people who have underlying ailment.

"So, what we did in the invention of this drug is to ensure that we lace it with solution to other diseases that are common among aged persons. While we are treating for the virus, other health conditions would also be benefiting from the treatment, and in that case, both the virus and other ailment in the body are tackled simultaneously."

On the cost of the drug, he said, "Our drugs are usually very cheap. That is why you see that we do not have sophisticated packaging, which is one of the things that make products expensive."

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