COVID-19: How we’re protecting ourselves with herbs, onions, others Nigerians speak on their strategies

ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, IMOLEAYO OYEDEJI and ADEOLA OTEMADE report on the unorthodox precautionary measures being taken by Nigerians in trying to keep themselves safe from the ravaging coronavirus pandemic.

CORONAVIRUS is probably the most talked-about issue in the world today as it has affected almost everything from politics to sport, entertainment, economy and even religion. Nothing has escaped its impact, not even social and family interaction.

Its effect on human life has been the most deadly in recent time. By last weekend, global death toll was around 8000+ but by today the figure has more than doubled to more than 20,000 giving the entire world serious cause for concern. The number of those who had contracted the disease has also increased to about 600,000 people in 172 countries and regions, and the figures keep rising by the day especially in Spain and the United States.

Just as in the days of Ebola when everybody in Nigeria was ready to experiment with any antidote including salty water, many Nigerians are also currently looking at different ways to curb the menace. So many people are wearing face masks and gloves, carrying with them their personal sanitiser while establishments have provided soap and water for hand-washing where they were hitherto absent.

The situation in Nigeria has also changed dramatically. Far from a tardy response by a federal government that was reluctant to impose a travel ban, state governments have today joined the fray by closing down schools, clubs, markets, banning religious gatherings among other measures. Public enlightenment campaigns had also increased.

While the treatment remains elusive, Nigerians are going ahead to devise means to ensure their personal protection against the disease. The remedies are not only unorthodox they are traditional as people fall back on their native knowledge of dealing with pandemic diseases.

A 45 year old trader at Bode Market, Molete, Ibadan who simply identified herself as Madam Alice and sells local herbs and materials believes so much in the efficacy of herbs and so do her customers who now flock her stall for various herbs believed to mitigate the onslaught of coronavirus.

“I use herbs for myself and my family and I’m sure it will work because these herbs help fight viruses and diseases. They also keep us healthy. Some of these herbs include lemon tea grass and colocynth. Some drink these mixtures while some bathe with them. Either way, it works,” she told Sunday Tribune.

With a lockdown imminent in many parts of the country, asked what would be her fate and that of others, Madam Alice noted that should a market lockdown happen, “even though there is nothing I can do, I will observe it. But, other people might just die of hunger because some people must still go out to work.”

Alhaji Busari, a trader also told Sunday tribune that he has heard so much about coronavirus and is taking precautions like others by washing his hands and having his bath very often, but aside that “I use paracetamol twice daily, twice in a week. Even though I believe we are all in God’s hand, these are the preventive measures I use.

“And to be honest, it is the white man’s disease. If government insists on a lockdown, I don’t know what I will do, but I believe they won’t do that.”

Eighty-two-year-old farmer and native doctor, Ekata Efandion said “This disease is not new. It has been in existence for a long time. Just because the white man put a name to it, everyone is panicking.

“There is herbal cure to coronavirus, actually, only a few diseases on this earth don’t have a cure.

“So, for coronavirus there is a cure and I have been curing people of this disease. Actually, just a common root has the ability to do the cure.

“The level of patronage from people has definitely increased as my people are unnecessarily scared of the virus that is not even as deadly as common malaria.

“If there is a lockdown, I will still be fine. I reside here in Edo State and I’m a farmer. Without the lockdown, I don’t even go anywhere, so even if there is, I’m okay with it.”

Expanding the scope of using native herbs and materials as antidote to coronavirus, Madam Rukayat, a herb seller, stated that putting colocynth or onion in the house also works wonders and rids the entire living areas of any disease. In addition, she said akoko leaves could also be used.

Onion dropped on the floor of a living room

“People also mix ginger, garlic and lime together. They drink it and if it can work for other diseases, it can also work for coronavirus as well.

“As for me, I don’t use all these things because why should I? Yes, I sell them, but I believe it cannot even come near me. I pray and God listens.

“Even if they announce a lockdown, I personally will not leave the market, because out of all these things I sell, there’s solution there. So I will not leave.”

Alimi Taofeek, a motorcycle rider, does not believe that face masks and washing of hands prevent against any disease. In fact as far as he is concerned, nothing works except prayers and faith.

“For instance, little children who are playing around; how many times will you wash their hands? Even with the mask and sanitiser, don’t people know that there are pores in the body that any virus can enter through?

“I don’t use all these things. The only solution I know is praying to God because He is the only one that can help us.”

On the possibility of a national lockdown, Taofeek believes it cannot work because the Nigeria economy runs differently from those of other countries.

“I ride motorcycle for a living. If there’s a lockdown, where does the government expect me to get money from? I have myself and my family to feed, so how would I cope?

“The lockdown can work in other countries, but not in Nigeria. Even the government won’t bring up the idea, I am sure. Except they will give us money like they are doing abroad, the lockdown cannot work here.”

Ayodeji Saanumi, a resident of Ijebu-Ijesha in Osun State, said “Since the pandemic virus became prevalent, my family and I have been using the nose masks often. We also engage in regular washing of hands. And by and large, we have limited our associations and physical dealings with people. More so, we regularly drink hot water.

“Though some people do add lemon and sodium bio-carbonate with the hot water, but excessive intake of such can have severe implications. And in view of the looming lockdown that will happen nationwide, I have stocked my household with food stuffs we can afford.”

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Tope Adewuyi, a nurse at the Eleyele Police Hospital in Ibadan, said by way of preventing the dreaded virus, she washes her hands after every twenty minutes and also encourages her husband to do same.

“Most times, I wear the nose mask and once I get back from work every day, I do firstly take a fresh bath with warm water and sanitise my hand before carrying my baby or touching my husband. Being self-employed, my husband has employed the stay-indoor mechanism as a preventive measure. We heard there is likely to be a lockdown as some shops have been closing up, I have stocked our house with foodstuffs that can last us for two months,” she said.

Ayodeji Salami, a staff of First Bank at Bodija area of Ibadan, seems to be on the same page with Adewuyi. On how he has been preventing the virus, he said: “Using face mask is really important as well as avoiding crowded places which I have been doing. Also, I have been moving far away from sick people especially those down with cough and catarrh.

“Above all, I have increased the spate of my personal hygiene by washing my hands every fifteen minutes especially these days that I’m often at work. I don’t really advise hand gloves because it might not really be effective.

“Besides, it carries a chemical that should be used by people often. In view of the imminent lockdown, people are engaging in panic-buying now. But I had stocked my house before the panic buying began.”

A businesswoman who resides at Apete area of Ibadan, Oyo State, Mrs Temitope Sobowale also shared with Sunday Tribune how she has been safeguarding her family from the virus.

She said, “The first measure we have employed is to stay at home. Even before the spread of the virus, my family and I had been on Vitamin C 1000ml to boost our immunity. Though it only prevents bacterial infection, but we have also been using the hand sanitiser. I use it for my children to let them know that they have to protect themselves.

“When I go out and return home, I also make sure my kids don’t touch me until I undress and freshen up with warm water and the hand washer. Then, regularly, I put an antisceptic in our bathing water. Also, I do blend ginger, put it in liquid form and add it to our tea as it clears the throat and cleanses the system. And concerning the imminent lockdown, I haven’t done much because before the panic-buying began, I had stocked the house as I often do.”

Alabi Olabisi, is an entrepreneur and he has been taking precautions like most people.

“I do not cuddle or accept a hug. No handshake either. I dispose used tissues immediately and properly in a covered waste bin. I do not pick my nose or pop pimples except in my bathroom where I can wash immediately. I do not touch any goods I have not paid for and ready to pick up. I try not to get exposed to common flu as it weakens the immune system.

“You know the rest, like observing social distancing by maintaining at least one metre between me and others,” he said.

In readiness for a probable lockdown, Olabisi is stocking up everything possible, buying supplies from the market and preparing to stay at home if need be.

Qudus Okufuwa, a businessman, has been practising self-isolation and social distancing to keep himself safe from coronavirus, but he doubts if there would be a total lockdown of the country. If that, however, should come into play he has already stocked lots of food at home to last him for a long time.

“I doubt (if) there would be total lockdown across the country. And if there is, I think the food I have at home will last a while. Aside that all those selling stuff in the streets will still be available; it’s only those selling things in the market that won’t be available.






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