WHO sounds caution as DR Congo President lauds COVID-19 ‘Products’

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Democratic Republic of Congo’s President, Felix Tshisekedi, has hailed locally-made “products” for tackling coronavirus, triggering words of caution from the World Health Organization about any unsupported claims for COVID-19 treatment.

File Photo: BERLIN, GERMANY – NOVEMBER 15: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi addresses the media during a press conference with the German Chancellor at the Chancellery on November 15, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. /Getty Images

“Having a vaccine is essential. But we are also in favour of a curative treatment,” Tshisekedi said on January 11.

“I believe we have two products which are promising, at least in the first results they have shown. They are Congolese products. We are going to promote them.”

One of the products, called Manacovid, went on sale in pharmacies in Kinshasa last month, an AFP journalist saw.

Bottles of the over-the-counter concoction were on sale for $110 (90 euros) each — a fortune in a country where two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 per day.

The man who describes himself as its inventor, Etienne-Flaubert Batangu Mpesa, who works at the Luozi Pharmaceutical Research Centre in Kongo-Central province, described Manacovid as a “medication manufactured with local medicinal plants.”

The authorities have given the product a five-year authorisation for public sale, according to an official document seen by AFP.

In a letter to the inventor, dated January 7, DRC Health Minister Eteni Longondo hailed the outcome of what he called “clinical tests” carried out in a hospital, and promised his ministry “will support you as the process moves ahead.”

But further details about the product are sketchy and the UN’s health agency (WHO) has sounded caution, as it has done in other claims of COVID fixes.

Its regional office for Africa, based in Brazzaville in the neighbouring Republic of Congo, told AFP in an email that it had “yet to be formally approached by the inventor of the product or by the Congolese authorities.”

It said it had informed an expert panel on traditional medicine and COVID, which the WHO set up last year with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

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