Andry Rajoelina, the island nation’s populist leader, launched ‘Covid-Organics’ last month. The remedy was developed by the Madagascar Institute of Applied Research and contains a cocktail of traditional herbs, including Artemisia, anti-malaria wormwood.
‘Covid-Organics’ was tested on less than 20 patients before it started being shipped out to the population. Some school children who have refused to drink the tea have reportedly been disciplined or expelled.
Madagascar’s National Academy of Medicine was quick to point out that the remedy was untested and potentially dangerous. “It is a drug whose scientific evidence has not yet been established, and which risks damaging the health of the population, in particular, that of children,” it said in a statement last month.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also issued a warning in early May, saying that untested traditional products were dangerous and that the cure could give people a dangerous false sense of security.
Mr Rajoelina has fought back, dubbing the widespread international criticism of his cure as Eurocentric. “If it was a European country that had actually discovered this remedy, would there be so much doubt?” he said on French TV earlier this month.
His government has launched a major international marketing push. It has now donated or sold crates of Covid-Organics to over 20 African and Caribbean nations, including Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Haiti.
According to Mr Rajoelina, Madagascar is now finalising discussions with the WHO for “large-scale” clinical trials of the tea.
The news follows an announcement from the Malagasy that it was sending soldiers and doctors to Toamasina, the country’s second-largest city, after a significant outbreak of virus there.
Madagascar has a population of 26m people and has officially recorded 586 cases and two deaths of Covid-19. However, the real number of cases could be far higher. According to local media reports, the country has only conducted about 9,000 tests in two months.