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Madagascar’s herbal remedy remains untested scientifically, WHO warns2 minutes read

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday said Madagascar had reached out for “help” with scientific research. “Our scientists would be able to assist with this research,” Mkhize tweeted.

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The President of Madagascar Andry Rajoelina attends a ceremony to launch "Covid Organics" or CVO, in Antananarivo, on 20 April 2020, a remedy from the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA) created from the Artemisia plant and supposed to prevent any infection by the new coronavirus Covid-19. (Photo by RIJASOLO / AFP)

The World Health Organization has advised governments to clinically test a herbal drink touted by Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina as a remedy against the novel coronavirus ravaging countries on the continent and across the world.

“We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy,” WHO Africa Director, Matshidiso Moeti said in a press briefing on Thursday, calling on Madagascar to take the drink “through a clinical trial”.

The Covid-Organics infusion is derived from artemisia, a plant with proven anti-malarial properties, and other indigenous herbs.

Rajoelina hopes to distribute the infusion across West Africa and beyond, claiming it cures COVID-19 patients within 10 days.

Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Niger have already received consignments of the potion. Others such as Nigeria and Tanzania have expressed interest, An AFP report said.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly warned that there are no published scientific studies of the herbal tea and that its effects have not been tested.

Moeti said that in 2000, African governments had committed to taking “traditional therapies” through the same clinical trials as other medication.

“I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help,” Moeti said. “But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment.”

Rajoelina defended his tonic during a coronavirus screening campaign in Madagascar’s eastern city of Toamasina on Thursday.

“The WHO has indicated that artemisia could lead to a cure for coronavirus,” the president said, promising to submit the drink to clinical trials.

– Scepticism remains –

Earlier this week, the WHO recognised artemisia as a “possible treatment” for COVID-19. But the organisation also repeated its calls for more rigorous testing.

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday said Madagascar had reached out for “help” with scientific research.

“Our scientists would be able to assist with this research,” Mkhize tweeted, adding that South Africa would only “get involved in a scientific analysis of the herb”.

The country has the highest number of coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, with 7,808 infections and 153 fatalities recorded to date.

Neighboring eSwatini — a tiny landlocked nation wedged between South Africa and Mozambique — said it would not consider Rajoelina’s tonic for the time being.

“It is important as a country to first ascertain where such herbal products have been tested,” said Health Minister, Lizzie Nkosi on Thursday.

“We have to do adequate proper research and be sure that the product works.”

To date eSwatini has reported 123 cases of coronavirus, including two deaths.

Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has debunked claims that it had ordered a package of Covid-Organics from a “third country”.

“We are aware that several claims of a COVID-19 cure have been made in different parts of the world,” ECOWAS said in a statement on Wednesday.

“But we can only support and endorse products that have been shown to be effective through scientific study.”

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Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality

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Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.

Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.

Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

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Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement

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Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.

The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.

“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.

AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.

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Uganda approves return of over 2,500 nationals stranded abroad

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Over 2,500 Ugandan nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now return home as approved by the Ugandan cabinet.

The cabinet on Monday, agreed that Ugandan nationals trapped in 66 countries can return home at their own cost.

The government is making arrangements with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded citizens home, Judith Nabakooba, the country’s minister for information, communication technology and national guidance says, adding that all the returning citizens will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine. 

President Yoweri Museveni last month, directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to study the possibility of evacuating dozens of citizens stranded abroad amid Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions. 

To contain the spread of Covid-19, the country on March 22 suspended all incoming flights, except cargo flights. 

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