In a joint effort to enhance research and development of traditional medicines as potential COVID-19 therapy in Africa, the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, or Africa CDC, have set up an expert advisory committee to provide independent scientific advice and support to countries on the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicine.
Launched on Friday, the 25-member Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 will support countries in collaborative efforts to conduct clinical trials of traditional medicines in compliance with international standards.
By pooling expertise within the continent, the committee is expected to accelerate the pace and elevate the standard of research, particularly clinical research, on new therapies from traditional medicines against the coronavirus.
“Interest in traditional medicine as potential remedies for COVID-19 is growing in Africa. As the world races to find treatment and vaccines for the virus, research into traditional and orthodox medicines as potential COVID-19 therapy must be grounded in science, and this measure marks an important step in supporting these endeavors,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.
According to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC and WHO’s special envoy on COVID-19 for Africa, efforts are ongoing on the continent to find coronavirus therapies in traditional medicine. He added that rigorous clinical testing to evaluate safety and efficacy will be critical.
The members of the committee are mainly from research institutions, national regulatory authorities, traditional medicine programs, public health departments, academia, medical pharmacy professions and civil society organizations of member states.
The Africa CDC said that the committee would start working immediately. Developing a master protocol to guide countries on clinical trials for COVID-19 and setting the agenda to support member states will be among the committee’s initial tasks.
Africa’s total number of confirmed cases has surpassed 800,000 according to the Africa CDC.
Latest statistics indicate that South Africa with 445,433 cases has well over half the reported cases on the continent and ranks fifth globally in the number of infections.
On Friday, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said schools were closing for four weeks to limit the spread of the virus, which he described as a storm hitting the country.
The school closing order came a week after South African teachers unions urged authorities to close schools through August.