Zimbabwe’s government has allowed traditional herbalists to treat coronavirus patients, but health experts are skeptical and call for extreme caution.
Zimbabwe’s health ministry on Monday delivered a letter to the head of the country’s main COVID-19 treatment center in Harare, asking him to consider bringing in an herbalist who claims to have a cure for the virus.
Speaking via WhatsApp, Dr Nyika Mahachi, president of the Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians, said the coronavirus is still evolving and her mortality is quite high.
“So we cannot take a risk with traditional medicine which is not proven,” he added. “Even on the regular drugs that we have, none of them have proven to be effective in treating or curing COVID-19. So it’s an unwanted development. I hope it’s not an true approval, something went wrong somewhere, and the ministry is urgently addressing it. “
Mahachi said the government should stick to WHO guidelines on how to contain the virus. Ten people have tested positive in Zimbabwe and one person has died.
But Tribert Chishanyu, president of the Zimbabwe Traditional Practitioners Association, said his organization was happy that the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa allowed herbalists to treat coronavirus positive Zimbabweans.
“The practice of traditional medicine is older than science and it is accepted by the majority of Zimbabweans,” he said. “If modern scientists have the opportunity to try whenever there is an emergency disease (epidemic), why can’t we do the same with the practice of traditional medicine? We treat the symptoms related to COVID-19, so by (some) chance we may be able to treat COVID-19. “
He added that mainstream practitioners were consulting with “spiritual mediums” in hopes of finding new COVID-19 treatments.
Fortune Nyamande, president of the Zimbabwe Association of Physicians for Human Rights, said the use of herbs could derail gains made with the 21-day nationwide lockdown that ends next week.
“We would like to stress that those who are going to use this approach (herbs) must know how to use personal protective equipment as they can end up being affected by the virus and they can end up being agents of transmission to larger communities,” he said. Nyamande said. “Overall we say this needs to be treated with caution. We also advocate for science-based, evidence-based interventions that have been proven elsewhere. “
Health ministry officials declined to comment on the case on Tuesday, but confirmed the authenticity of the letter authorizing herbalists to treat Zimbabweans affected by the coronavirus.