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Local Herbalists Overwhelmed by Covid Patients in Gulu

“Those who are recovering are tipping off their colleagues and so the number of patients keeps increasing and the demand is high,” Ojara told Uganda Radio Network in an interview.
Covid 19 medical team at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital-Photo By Simon Wokorach

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Traditional healers and local herbalists in Gulu are hardly getting anytime to rest as more Covid-19 patients in Gulu are turning to traditional medicine for treatment amidst stock out of drugs as the infections escalate in the district.

There are at least 397 patients in Gulu City are on home based care and 93 from Gulu District, with 2,943 cumulative cases including 63 deaths having been recorded.

 

As the infections surge in the District, the demand for treatment has scaled up which has led to stock out of drugs.

Sections of the patients who spoke to Uganda Radio Network have decried the challenges they face under home-based care with scarcity of drugs in the area.

Evelyn Akello, a resident of Kanyagoga Cell in Bardege-Layibi Division is among the patients battling the infection under home based care.

Akello revealed that nine of her other family members who equally tested positive for the virus have failed to stay on treatment prescribed as they have run out of stock from the health facilities and pharmacies. 

She however explained that with the worrying conditions, they turned to traditional herbalists for treatment.

“We had informed the medical team from Gulu Regional Referral Hospital about our conditions in vain, but we felt we could try other means” Akello added. 

Richard Anywar, another patient who also tested positive says he had taken three days on treatment with herbal medicine after he failed to get the prescribed medicines from the medical team. 

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Alfred Ojara, one of the traditional herbalists in Gulu has acknowledged receiving a number of the Covid patients in the past few days.

Ojara claimed to have managed 20 patients who sought treatment at his herbal clinic adding that the numbers are increasing.

“Those who are recovering are tipping their colleagues and so the number of patients keeps increasing and the demand is high” Ojara told Uganda Radio Network in an interview.  

Ojara further claimed that he had submitted samples of his herbal medicines to the authorities in Kampala for clinical trial waited for the confirmation in vain.

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However, Dr. Veronica Alice Lamwaka, a Lecturer at Gulu University in the Faculty of Medicine and Bio Technology also claimed to have submitted over 70 samples for clinical trial. 

She revealed that some of the medicines have ordinarily treated patients with fever; cough and other heart related complications, the condition she says have no difference with those from Coronavirus.

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Bishop Loum, the regional coordinator Covid-19 risk communications and surveillance in Acholi says the overwhelming demand for drugs have forced patients to look for them from private pharmacies. 

Meanwhile, William Onyai, the Gulu District Health Educator have warned people of defaulting form home based care, something he says is contributing to the surge of the infections in the District.

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However, Alfred Okwonga, the Gulu City Council Mayor have expressed fear over the rising cases of the infections and blames the resurgence on home based care.

“The management of patients from home is failing and we are looking forward to creating isolation and treatment Centre if we are to reduce on the infections in the City” Okwonga explained.

In an earlier interview, Emmanuel Anniyboiona, the Senior Public Relations Officer for Ministry of Health says there is need to study on the effectiveness of herbal medicine for treatment of diseases. 

With the growing numbers of the infections, several of the non-governmental organizations in Northern Uganda have asked the government to recognize herbal medicine in treatment of the covid-19 patients. 

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) are already pushing for COVID-19 traditional medicine research in Africa.

The agencies have formed a 25-member expert advisory panel to provide scientific advice and support to countries on the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicine for fighting COVID-19. 

The panel, selected from Central, Eastern, Southern and West African countries will coordinate support to African countries to collaborate in undertaking clinical trials with a focus on traditional medicine-based therapies.

Traditional medicine, according to a study, is the health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs combining plant, animal and mineral-based medicines applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being. 

It also includes spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises.

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