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Cameroon Warns Against COVID Quacks

Boxes with concoctions made by Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala, who claims that they have helped treat COVID-19 patients and distributes for free, are seen in the office of Saint Paul Catholic Hospital deputy director in Douala, Cameroon, June 9, 2020.

Cameroon marked African Traditional Medicine Day Monday, cautioning its population against quacks trying to make money, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities say while some traditional medicines have a proven medical use, many fake healers are looking to scam those who cannot afford modern medicine.

A so-called African traditional healer uses a loudspeaker to entice passersby.

He said people who have not found solutions to their health problems in hospitals should come to him.

Cameroonian authorities say there are more than 800 traditional healers in the capital, Yaoundé.

The Cameroon Association of French Speaking Healers says nationwide there are at least 19,000.

Healer Nadege Avoulou accepts chickens as consultation fees from patients who do not have money.

Avoulou, who has received 15 chickens in the last day, says she specializes in spiritual healing.

She said early signs of spiritual attacks include severe pain on the forehead, nosebleeds, vomiting and fever. Avoulou said she helps patients by giving them medicine she prepares from mango, tree roots and animal skin.

Fifty-year-old farmer Marie Essimbi said she took her sick son to Avoulou.

She said her 32-year-old son regained his health and started walking on his own after he went through some form of spiritual cleansing. Essimbi said the healer boiled some leaves and grains for her son to drink and wash his face with three times a day.

Authorities say about 70% of its 25 million people depend primarily on African traditional medicine as many in remote areas cannot access or afford hospitals.

But, while some herbal medicines have been shown to have health benefits, many other alleged traditional medicines only help the so-called healers.

Divine Tsala leads a group of five such healers who claim to have successfully treated patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Tsala said she can confirm that 1,000 people who tested COVID-19 positive recovered their health after they were treated with African traditional medicine. Tsala said some of those who recovered were more than 60 years old.

Cameroonian officials say there is no cure for COVID-19 or effective treatment by African traditional medicine.

Health Minister Manaouda Malachie Monday warned against quacks and their claims.

Malachie said, like many Africans, he can't undermine the importance of African traditional medicine in saving lives and ensuring general well being. But he warns it is imperative for successful African traditional healers to organize themselves and help the government to kick out from their midst those charlatans who are damaging the lives of innocent people. In that regard, Malachie said he has ordered a census of prominent and acclaimed African traditional medical practitioners in Cameroon.

Malachie said the aim is to root out quacks and stop the illegal business from putting lives at risk.

The World Health Organization marks African Traditional Medicine Day by involving verified traditional healers in health care services.

Shortly after the pandemic reached Cameroon in March, the government began urging those with symptoms to go to hospitals – not to so-called healers.

The WHO says Cameroon has more than 19,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 400 deaths.