East African ‘cure’ reveals health care collapse

East Africans are flocking to Arusha in Tanzania to buy a ‘miracle’ herb named loliondo (carissa edulis), revealing a health care systems collapse.

Retired Lutheran Rev Mwasapile at Samunge village, sells boiled extract of loliondo, probably carissa eduils (see botanical note below), at US50c per 100ml cup.

NTV reports from mountains near Arusha that hundreds of patients are waiting in a very long queue of vehicles to buy a herbal remedy that Tanzanian medical authorities said does not work. Kenyans have also joined the loliondo ‘pilgrimage’ to Tanzania, in buses diverted from the Mombasa-Nairobi route.

East African health problems are compounded by population growth, inconsistent pubic services, expensive private health care, expensive drugs, counterfeit and fake drugs trade rackets, pandemics HIV /AIDS and TB, as well as sporadic outbreaks of tropical disease.

Kenya relies on foreign donors to finance HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes. The recent credit crunch raised fears of withdrawal of funding and collapse of the programmes.

A Chinese medical ship docking in Mombasa in October 2010, drew a massive number of patients seeking treatment for minor ailments, or suffering for not having been vaccinated against common diseases. Foreign aid agencies render some health care services, but many African countries lack a backbone of health facilities, skills and supplies.

Many African states are spending on infrastructure upgrades in support of mining investments, reports Miner’s Choice in South Africa. However, social services, health care facilities, skills, materials and drugs, remain under funded.

Health insurance tax plans

Kenya, like South Africa, is considering a comprehensive national insurance system to fund affordable public medical care, from raising more taxes on high earners. Labour bodies and labour supported political parties support the idea, while bus8iness analysts fear that state inefficiency could render national health care insurance very expensive, and prone to collapse.

Kenya’s National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), offering a social safety net to the most vulnerable in society, has been accused of being a haven of corruption and inefficiency, report Kenyan media.

The fund receives remittances of billions of shillings per year, but is “hijacked by operatives within the government and turned into a cash cow for the corrupt.”

South African institutions and public fear that the local plan for a national health insurance fund, proposed by the ruling ANC party, could go the same way.

Carissa edulis herb

Loliondo is probably carissa eduils, named mtandamboo in Kiswahili, used to treat gonorrhoea by Maasai, Samburu and Kikuyu tribes. Kamba people know it as mukawa or mutote, used for chest pains.

Nandi people boil the leaves and bark to treat breast cancer, headache and chest pains. Some preparations are used against herpes, reports Alpha Mata. Some species are named agam in Amharic.

However, there are about 12 related species of carissa edulis, and the particular herb used by retired Rev Mwasapile at Samunge village is uncertain, despite a small bush, depletred by cutting, growing in his village.

Dr Festus M Tolo of Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), and a team of University of Nairobi and National Museums of Kenya found the herb could provide alternative remedy for herpes infections.

“An extract preparation from the roots of Carissa edulis, a medicinal plant growing in Kenya, has remarkable anti herpes virus activity for wild type and drug resistant strains,” they reported in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, cited on Allafrica.com.

Carissa edulis is of the botanical family Apocynaceae. Some subspecies are used to treat wounds, some are ground and placed in cattle woulds to kill worms, some roots are ground as snake repellent.

PHOTO; One of the species of carissa edulis. Some types bear white, spindly five-leaved flowers on fleshy leaves. Warning; do not prepare or take any herb or herbal preparation without specialist herbal advice.

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