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YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Cameroonians have been flooding into the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Douala, where Archbishop Samuel Kleda claims he has found an herbal cure for COVID-19.
The popularity of the archbishop's alleged cure has prompted some authorities to try to make the treatment more widely available, even though medical experts have urged extreme caution about its use.
Paul Nyaga, curate of St. Paul's Parish of the Douala Archdiocese, said through a messaging application that since information circulated a week ago that Kleda could treat COVID-19, many have been rushing to his parish for help.
He said the parish had been overwhelmed by the number of people coming from Yaounde, Bafoussam and Douala with test results showing that they were COVID-19-positive and saying they did not have access to treatment. He said he told them to go to Catholic hospitals in the archdiocese, where they would be treated when there were additional supplies of the archbishop's herbal remedy.
Among the hundreds asking for help was hairdresser Clementine Eya, 27, who also spoke via a messaging application from Douala.
She said she had no money to pay for the hospital treatment of her elder sister, who tested COVID-19-positive in Douala and wanted to see the archbishop because she had been told his treatment was efficient and free.
Several dozen treated
Kleda told state media CRTV on April 25 that he had treated several dozen people, including eight medical staff members, for conditions affecting their respiratory systems, just like the coronavirus does.
Kleda, speaking via a messaging application from Douala, said he could confirm that his 30 years of medicinal plant research experience, especially on herbal treatment, had enabled him to find a cure for COVID-19.
He said he was very happy because everyone who had taken the herbal remedy had been cured of COVID-19. He added that that his goal as a servant of God was to help poor and suffering people, and that was why he gave away the cure, which he named Essential Oils, free of charge.
Last week, the Cameroonian government sent a team of researchers and doctors to determine the validity of Kleda's claimed cure. Public Health Minister Malachie Manaouda said the government's support would be determined by the outcome of the investigation. He said if Kleda was proven to be right, the government would make it more widely available for COVID-19 patients.
The Cameroon Medical Council and the Cameroon Academy of Sciences have both called for research to determine the efficiency of Essential Oils.
Advice: Rely on hospitals
Dieudonne Kameni of the Cameroon Medical Council said that for now, COVID-19 patients should count only on treatment at authorized government hospitals.
He said by telephone from Douala that medical practice has rules, regulations and professional ethics that must be observed before drugs can be used in patients, but that the archbishop's collection of herbs was still at a preclinical testing stage and could not be scientifically called a cure for COVID-19. He said he was asking patients to go to hospitals, which for now were the only sure places COVID-19 could be treated.
Kleda said he would continue administering the treatment to patients who sought help from him while waiting for scientists to complete their findings. Many patients have, however, complained of the difficulty of obtaining Essential Oils because of high demand.
Cameroon has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other country in Central Africa. As of Saturday afternoon EDT, the country had recorded 2,077 confirmed cases, with 64 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.