By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The island country of Madagascar has been forced to turn school classrooms and a few hotels into makeshift emergency hospitals to take care of people with extreme complications brought about by infections of the novel coronavirus.
The country has struggled to contain the virus’ spread ever since a much-touted local herbal cure promoted by President Andry Rajoelina, proved to be ineffective. Now, local media is reporting that this new wave may be due to the South African variant of COVID which has been reported in other southern African countries.
Madagascar, where the World Bank in 2019 estimated 75% of the people were living on less than $1.90 per day, is struggling to cope with the influx of infected person into hospitals. The capital, Antananarivo, which is also the most populated city, is the epicenter of the infection.
Herbal Cure Fiasco
The way in which Madagascar has managed its portion of the global pandemic has been criticized both in Africa and beyond. In April last year, President Rajoelina launched a local herbal remedy he claimed can prevent and cure the coronavirus in seven days. The beverage, called COVID-Organics and developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA), contains Artemisia, a plant used to treat malaria.
When global health experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) urged caution or expressed doubt about the efficacy of the drug, Rajoelina pushed back. At times, Rajoelina played it as a defender of Pan-African pride who was standing up against neocolonial indignation.
“I think the problem is that (the drink) comes from Africa and they can’t admit… that a country like Madagascar…has come up with this formula to save the world,” he told reporters in May 2020. Madagascar even treated to pull out of the WHO. A dozen other African countries including Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo bought COVID-Organics from Madagascar.
But no sooner had Rajoelina defended the local formula than Madagascar was forced into a lockdown to curtail the spread of the virus in June.
But Madagascar, since this month, has committed to the WHO’s COVAX program which seeks to distribute vaccines to lower-income countries across the world. The country is yet to roll out a vaccination program as it is awaiting its fist consignment of doses.