THE Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Commission has distanced itself from reports that the West Africa Health Organisation, WAHO, its health arm has endorsed herbal medicine developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research, Madagascar, for COVID-19 treatment.
In a statement released by the regional body in Abuja, stating that several claims of COVID-19 cures have emerged from different parts of the world, only products shown to be effective through scientific study would be endorsed by the commission.
“We wish to dissociate ECOWAS and its health institution, West Africa Health Organization from this claim and to inform the general public that we have not ordered the said CVO medication,” the statement reads in part.
Madagascar had turned to herbal organics as a cure for the coronavirus disease as President Andry Rajoelina celebrated the herbal drug which contains artemisia at an African Union, AU, gathering.
The Indian Ocean island nation with a population of 26 million people, has 128 recorded cases of COVID-19 with no deaths.
The commission stated that WAHO was collaborating with relevant partners which include the World Health Organisation, Africa Centres for Disease Control as well as national, regional, and international research consortium to promote the scientific search for a cure.
“We are working with member states on some of the medications available for clinical practices and for use on a compassionate basis in selected severe cases.
“Some of the traditional medicine centres of excellence in the ECOWAS region are also currently investigating products of potential efficacy,” the statement reads.
WHO warns against alternative medicine which includes certain herbal therapies and teas for treating or preventing COVID-19, saying there was no evidence they work and some may be unsafe.
Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who operates Quackwatch, a network of websites about unproven medical therapies says unless there’s a scientific evidence-based approach accompanies the herbal medicine it can’t be accepted as valid.
“It’s the responsibility of those who make a herbal drink to show the scientific evidence that their claims are valid,” he said.
ECOWAS says WAHO remains committed to promoting rational traditional medicine practices and products in the region since it is an institution that has worked consistently for years with the member States to scientifically investigate plant medicines of proven efficacy.
The commission also added that such products were documented in ECOWAS Pharmacopoeia of Traditional Medicines, the second edition of which would be published in the next few weeks.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.