Artemisia ambassadors in DRC

Dr. Nathan, general practitioner and researcher in nutrition and integrative health at the DRC
Health Sciences Research Institute in Kisantu, is President of the National Artemisia House in the
 DRC. Trained in integrative physiology and clinical phytotherapy, he works at the phytotherapy
 research center in Kisantu, treating patients with both allopathic and traditional medicine. He is
also promoter of the Kongoterra center for endobiogeny, preventive and integrative medicine. In
recent months, he has trained student “ambassadors” at the Artemisia House in Kisantu to raise awareness of Artemisia and combat malaria.

How did the idea of Artemisia “ambassadors” come about?

The Kisantu Artemisia House is located in a highly academic university environment, with numerous faculties, including a medical school. The influence of the Artemisia House has extended into this environment. Many students, particularly medical students, have experienced and measured the benefits of using Artemisia herbal tea to prevent and combat malaria. They were the originators of the initiative. They came to us and said: “We want to become ambassadors for the Artemisia House”. For us, it was a real wake-up call, because these are future doctors and healthcare executives who will be in contact with many patients and a significant medical network. So we decided to follow up on this initiative.

How did the project come about?

I trained a core group of student ambassadors who then went on to raise awareness among other students. The training lasts seven days. It includes the vision, mission and values of the Artemsia House network, the virtues and use of Artemisia annua and afra in the prevention and treatment of malaria, with a global approach at the heart of the One Health system. These young ambassadors are also trained in communication techniques for changing health behaviors, in medico-social and solidarity-based entrepreneurship, and in our approach of small, feasible and important actions (SFIA) to eradicate malaria in our households.

Today, we have around forty ambassadors, including medical students, future healthcare executives, future nurses and nutritionists, and young people studying communications. So the audience is quite broad.

What do they actually do?

On the one hand, they raise awareness in their student communities. On the other hand, they organize targeted actions (herbal tea tasting, distribution of flyers and herbal tea, follow-up of herbal tea intake with patients), on dedicated days such as World Malaria Day on April 25, or on special health or traditional medicine days. For example, they are present in schools, raising awareness of Artemisia as part of school health prevention programs. They emphasize to pupils and teachers the three pillars of the fight against malaria: taking Artemisia herbal tea as a preventive and curative measure, intra- and peri-domiciliary sanitation and setting up mosquito repellent hedges with Artemisia and citronella. We are likewise invited to churches, markets and parking lots, where we are very welcome. It’s also worth pointing out that, in addition to raising awareness, some students are ready to work on Artemisia as part of their final dissertation. This is a very promising long-term prospect.

Can this ambassador model be adapted to other Artemisia Houses in other regions?

We’ve started replicating this model, notably in Mbanza-Ngungu near Kisantu. And we’re taking an open-source approach, to share our experience with anyone who wants it. Each Artemisia House can adapt the ambassador concept to its own context. We have schools and universities, but everyone can find their own local reservoir, depending on their social typology. Kisantu is a particularly favorable environment for this type of initiative, and we want to make it a reference model available to the network.