Photograph — Nieman

On Sunday, May 17, 2020, Madagascar’s national COVID-19 taskforce announced its first coronavirus death nearly two months after it was first detected in the country.

Taskforce spokeswoman Hanta Danielle Vololontiana in a televised statement said: “It is with great sadness that we have to share with all our compatriots that there is an individual, aged 57, who died from COVID-19.” According to Vololontiana, the 57-year-old man who died on Saturday night suffered from underlying health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. He was, however, a car park attendant at a hospital in the eastern city of Toamasina

Additionally, Vololontiana disclosed that two other people who are down with severe COVID-19 complications are “still in intensive care.” The Madagascan COVID-19 taskforce spokesperson, therefore, asked for “strict observation of containment measures, especially for the three regions Analamanga, Atsinanana and Haute Matsiatra,” where the virus presently occupies. 

Madagascar’s first coronavirus-related death comes weeks after President Andry Rajoelina launched COVID-Organics (CVO), an organic herbal drink he asserts can prevent or cure coronavirus patients. Speaking on the effectiveness of the tonic in a recent interview with France 24, Rajoelina said: “COVID-Organics is a preventive and curative remedy against COVID-19. It works really well and it is as a result of the research carried out by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research which has the status of an original research centre.”

The tonic drink which is derived from Artemis, is a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment and other indigenous herbs. Several African countries including the most populous nation in the continent Nigeria, have either ordered or expressed interest in acquiring Madagascar’s remedy- COVID-Organics.

Nevertheless, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against “adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy.” Irrespective, the WHO last week Thursday said it is in touch with Madagascar over its herbal drink. “We have offered to support the design of a study to look into this product (COVID Organics),” Matshidiso Moeti, the regional director of WHO office in Africa, notified in a media briefing.

As of May 18, the Indian Ocean island country of Madagascar recorded 304 cases of coronavirus with 114 recovered.

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