African countries are opting to import Madagascar’s herbal remedy touted as a cure for coronavirus by the country’s President Andry Rajoelina, even as the World Health Organization cautioned the public against it.

Rajoelina officially launched the remedy on April 20, to be used as preventive and cure for the novel coronavirus, arguing that it had showed encouraging results. As of Sunday, the country had recorded 149 coronavirus cases, of which 98 had recovered with no deaths.

Developed by Jerome Munyagi, a Congolese doctor, in partnership with the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research and branded COVID Organics, the remedy contains the artemisia plant, also known as sweet wormwood, the source of an ingredient used in the treatment of malaria.

“All trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness in reduction and elimination of symptoms have been provided for treatment of COVID-19 patients in Madagascar,” Rajoelina said during the launch, adding that the remedy had cured two patients.

In a statement to the BBC, the WHO said it had not recommended “self-medication with any medicines as a prevention or cure for COVID 19.” The global organization added that trials are ongoing to find an effective treatment for coronavirus.

Despite the WHO’s warning, African countries have expressed interest in the herbal remedy, while others have already imported it.

The Indian Ocean country donated a 1.5 tons of the herbal medicine to Equatorial Guinea, consisting of 1,500 curative treatment packets and 10,000 preventive packets, according to Turkey-based Anadolu news agency.

With a population of 1.3 million, Equatorial Guinea has recorded 315 infected cases, one death and nine recoveries.

Guinea Bissau received the herbal remedy on Saturday, while the Republic of Congo has also ordered it. Tanzania and Senegal have expressed interest..

In a televised address on Sunday, John Magufuli, the president of Tanzania, said he was in communication with the Madagascan authorities on the possibility of importing the herbal medicine and he will soon dispatch a plane to get the treatment.

In his Labor Day speech on Friday, Magufuli said he will not close down religious meetings and markets, a precaution that has been taken by neighboring countries. The country has so far recorded 480 positive cases, 16 deaths and 167 recoveries.

On a Twitter account, Thierry Moungalla, the information minister of the Republic of Congo, said the decision to import the remedy was reached following a three-way teleconference between the presidents of the two countries, as well as the president of Guinea-Bissau.

Azali Assoumani, the president of Comoros, ordered the product after a teleconference meeting with Rajoelina.

The National Academy of Medicine of Madagascar has warned against COVID Organics, saying it has not been adequately tested.

Previously, the US-based National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warned against purported coronavirus remedies, including herbal therapies, teas, essential oils, tinctures and silver products, such as colloidal silver.

“There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by COVID-19,” the center said.

“In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume. It’s important to understand that although many herbal or dietary supplements come from natural sources, “natural” does not always mean that it’s a safer or better option for your health.”

As of Sunday, Africa had recorded a total of 43,060 infections, 1,761 deaths and 14,343 recoveries, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Africa is the most affected country with 6,336 cases and 123 deaths, followed by Egypt with 6,193 cases and 415 deaths. Algeria has recorded the highest number of deaths at 459, and it’s the fourth most affected country with 4,295 positive cases. Lesotho is the only coronavirus-free country in the continent.

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