Uganda on Tuesday approved a local herbal medicine as a supporting treatment for viral infections including COVID-19.
The director of National Drug Authority (NDA) in the country said that after various assessments and inspections of the factory manufacturing the product, Covidex, the government approved its use to support treatment of viral infections.
Formulated from herbs traditionally used to alleviate the symptoms of several diseases, the drug was developed by a team of scientists in the southwestern town of Mbarara led by pharmacologist Patrick Ogwang, had generated debate over its efficacy in treating COVID-19.
The NDA had earlier asked the manufacturer of the drug, then costing 3,000 Ugandan shillings per 20 milliliter bottle, to halt sales citing safety concerns, as the medicine had not yet been approved. Just hours after being cleared for use by the authority, the price skyrocketed as pharmacies across the country started selling it at 50,000 shillings ($14) apiece and higher as demand soars.
Many Ugandans have been using “steam,” inhaling vapor rising from a boiling concoction of herbs including leaves of oranges, guava, mangos and eucalyptus as virus cases surge in Uganda, making scarce hospital beds even more costly.
Hospitals in different parts of the country report difficulties in procuring oxygen supplies, as many run out of space for COVID-19 patients. Intensive care units are in high demand, with some hospital bills shared by the families of patients amounting to as much as $15,000, a small fortune in a country where annual per capita income is less than $800.
The head of the NDA has said the medicine does not cure COVID-19 but could supplement medicines issued by medical professionals. “After engagements, the innovators have removed unsubstantiated claims that the product treats and prevents COVID-19 and revised it to supportive treatment in management of viral infections,” he said.
The drug authority says it will continue to monitor the safety of Covidex through its post-market surveillance activities. Uganda has confirmed 79,434 cases of the coronavirus, along with 989 deaths related to the disease.
Health fears as killer DR Congo volcano spouts ash
The DR Congo’s Nyirangongo volcano has released large amounts of ash some two months after its eruption, sparking concerns for local residents’ health, experts said on Sunday.
The volcano in the far east of the vast central African country first erupted on May 22, claiming 32 lives and destroying hundreds of homes.
“The ash is the result of the collapse of part of the Nyirangongo’s central crater,” vulcanologist Muhindo Syavulisembo said in a statement.
Syavulisembo, who heads the Goma Vulcanology Observatory (OVG), however ruled out an imminent new eruption.
“There hasn’t been visible damage, but we fear respiratory and water-borne illnesses,” Samson Buunda, a local civil society representative, told AFP.
The eruption of Africa’s most active volcano displaced nearly 400,000 people, especially after May 27 when scientists warned of a potentially catastrophic blast underneath nearby Lake Kivu.
UK, US delegates and others arrive in Nigeria to witness Kanu’s trial
Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria has seen an influx of delegates representing the UK, US and others to attend the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, a rights activist and leader of Biafran pro-independence group , the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Kanu, whose trial is scheduled to resume Monday, July 26, 2021, faces charges of treason and other unfounded crimes for calling for a referendum on an independent state of Biafra in the east of the country.
He was seized in Kenya and illegally repatriated to Nigeria after fleeing to Israel in 2017 when his home was raided by soldiers who killed scores of civilians in an attempt to assassinate him.
“We see here the presence of some well-known journalists from European countries. Some British and American delegates have also arrived,” said a source at a notable hotel in Abuja.
Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lawyer for the separatist leader, who confirmed the presence of journalists and members of the international community, called for calm between members of the separatist group and the country’s security agents who will be in court for the trial.
“I further wish to urge restraint and civility in all quarters tomorrow. It is your constitutional rights to be in court to witness Court’s proceedings but your engagement, dressing and conducts should be civil,” Ejiofor said in a statement on Sunday.
“The World is here already and they will be watching. All notable World class media houses are here already.
“I also wish to remind the security agents that the Court’s environment is a public place, accessible to everybody, and not a battleground, they should be civil in their engagement, as no violence is envisaged and none will happen. What we Demand for is justice and fair hearing,” he said.
Teen missing since 2020 after soldiers raided synagogue in Nigeria
The whereabouts of Emmanuel John, a teenager, has remained unknown since October 2020, when Nigerian soldiers raided a synagogue in Obigbo, an Igbo residence in Rivers State, where they killed at least seven worshipers and arrested others.
Emmanuel’s two younger siblings were also shot in the incident that left the synagogue razed by soldiers who accused the worshipers of having ties to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)—a group advocating for an independent state known as Biafra in the eastern part of the country.
The incident occurred in October 2020 during which a protest against police brutality turned violent when security officers shot and killed protesters across the country, including Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, where they killed many civilians.
“It was on Shabbat, Saturday, that the incident happened. My children were there in the synagogue when the soldiers arrived. They killed people and shot others including my two other little children who are 7 and 9 years old,” Mrs. Nkechi John, mother of the missing teenager told Gazette Africa.
“Favour (Emmanuel) didn’t do anything wrong. The soldiers shot him and took him in their van with other worshipers. Since that 2020 we have searched almost everywhere but we haven’t found him.
“He’s only 15, he was keeping Shabbat with others that Saturday, he didn’t do anything wrong,” Ms. John said, weeping.
A Jewish adherent, Chikwube Udo, who survived the military raid, described it as a “bloody Shabbat day”, noting that the synagogue was razed to the ground after the attack.
“It was a bloody Shabbat day. People died, others were shot and wounded while those who survived were thrown into the military van and taken away. Few others were found but Aboy (Emmanuel) is still missing,” he said.
Since 2017, Nigerian government forces have stepped up their attacks on Igbo Jewish adherents whom they consider terrorists for supporting the demand for a referendum on an independent state known as Biafra.
At least 14 synagogues, including those destroyed in November 2020, have been razed by government forces in the east of the country.
The crackdown on Jewish worshipers in Nigeria has further led to the arrest of three Israeli filmmakers, Rudy Rochman, Noam Leibman and E. David Benaym, currently detained without charge.
Meanwhile, Nnamdi Kanu, human rights activist and leader of Biafran pro-independence group, who practices Judaism, is currently being held in the Nigeria’s Department of State Services detention center in Abuja after being seized in Kenya and illegally repatriated to the country.
The separatist leader who had fled to Israel in 2017 when his home was raided by soldiers who killed many civilians in an attempt to assassinate him, faces charges of treason and other unfounded crimes, for calling for a referendum on the independent state of Biafra in the east of the country.
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