Why Sri Lanka is so successful fight against COVID-19?
“Hi, how are you? come in, sit down”, we were greeted by Ramya de Silva, who is a pediatric consultant, working in a leading Colombo hospital. We were visiting the doctor a few days ago because one of our sons complained about a stomach ache. It seemed to be a minor stomach ache because it did not make any severe pain. But we knew something was not quite right, therefore decided to visit the doctor.
We know the doctor for a long time, since our first child was born in 2010, and since then we are visiting her on a regular basis with our kids. Our visit took place amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, in the backdrop of many counties around the world, that are suffering heavily due to the Coronavirus. The number of world Corona patients has sharply risen over the last few weeks and now it is counted more than 16 million.
As the many developed countries around the world are heavily suffering due to the invisible creature, that causes Corona, Sri Lanka is very successful in the fight against Coronavirus. The government had been able to contain the virus successfully. The country was locked down from mid-march to the end of June, and the lockdown restrictions are completely removed now.
Low fatality rate due to COVID-19
Even though the number of Corona patients on the island is risen to nearly 3000 by end of July, most of them are expatriates who returned to the island recently and the number of COVID patients recorded within the island is less than 1000. The fatality rate due to the CIVID-19 is only 0.4% (11 deaths so far), which is very low compared to the fatality rate of most other countries in the world.
The number of COVID-19 patients is not mushrooming in Sri Lanka like most other countries around the world, it is due to the various measure taken by the country such as contact tracing and quarantine. The Corona recovery rate in Sri Lanka is also surprisingly high, despite without any medicine.
Treating Corona patients in an Ayurvedic way
Sri Lanka has adopted its own way of treating Corona patients, which can also describe as an Ayurvedic treatment method. This method proved to be very successful when it comes to fighting against Coronavirus. Sri Lanka resorted to the Ayurveda way of treatment with the first corona patient found in Sri Lanka.
Ayurveda had helped doctors to reduce the deaths caused by COVOD-19 in Sri Lanka. There had been only 11 deaths due to COVID-19 so far. Those deaths are also not the direct outcomes of Coronavirus. According to the medical reports, all of them were suffering from various other non-communicable diseases, which caused them to die.
A successful campaign against COVID-19
Sri Lanka has been able to minimize the damage caused by Coronavirus so far. There had been few cases on the island after about 70 days recently, which could have been the 2nd wave, but the Corona task force had taken swift measures to curb it. Still, the Corona patients are reported in single-digit numbers from the quarantine centres, where the expatriate should stay a minimum of 14 days. However, there are many days in which no one was found positive for coronavirus.
Sri Lanka’s effort against VCOVID-19 is highly praised by the WHO. Many countries such as the UK and Russia have already removed travel restrictions against Sri Lanka, allowing citizens of Sri Lanka to visit those countries and same time travellers of those countries are also allowed to visit Sri Lanka.
However, the airport of Sri Lanka is not open to foreign travellers yet. The government has announced that they will open the airport only after completing the repatriation of foreign workers. Therefore the opening date of the airport is uncertain, according to the information opening date of the airport could be delayed until mid-august or the end of August.
Importance of traditional food in the fight against COVID-19
Doctor Silva was wearing a face visor, a mask and a surgical glow, it seems to be the doctor is taking all the safety measures to keep the virus away from her. It is quite understandable because she meets a lot of patients. However, we were just wearing masks.
The doctor turned to the son and checked him. “What does he eat”, the doctor asked my wife. “Doctor he is eating a lot of biscuits, bread items, chocolate, ice cream, chips” answered my wife referring to a list of unhealthy food. He is very reluctant to eat rice, vegetable, fish, or meat but eats some fruits, my wife completed her answer.
“That’s the problem, this is one of the issues in Sri Lanka, bad food habit, the kids are distancing themselves from the healthy food, the parents should persuade them to rely on healthy food.”, “You should not be eating things like biscuits and other sweets very often it is not good”, this time doctor was speaking to the kid.
The doctor turned to my wife and asked, “Does he eat Kola Kenda”, “No doctor, it is very difficult to make him drink Kola Kenda”, my wife answered. “They are very healthy food and you are benefitted many ways if you eat Kola Kenda often”, said the doctor.
“Kola Kenda is organic food and contains a lot of fibre. When you eat a lot of starch what happens is some of the good bacteria living in the digestive system retreat to the lower part of the system, while other bacteria become more active and move to the beginning of the digestion process. These bad bacteria produce some gases that cause abdominal pains, that’s what has happened to him”, explained the doctor. “Yoghurt, rice, vegetable, cereal type of food are good and reduce the intake of biscuits and starch, encourage him to eat fibre as much as possible”, she educated us on the next best thing to do.
“Our ancestors were very healthy and they did not have most of the diseases we have now. They used to eat a lot of Kola Kenda and other healthy food”, said the doctor.
What is Kola Kenda?
You might be wondering what Kola Kenda is. Kola Kenda is a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast from the Kandy region in Sri Lanka. “Kola+ Kenda”, a Sinhalese word contains 2 words, Kola means the leaves and Kenda means the soup.
Kola Kenda means the soup made of leaves. This healthy beverage is made of leaves of many trees, plants and creepers. The women also add coconut milk, and rice, which are also the main ingredients of the beverage. Kola Kenda has some similarities to South Indian Kanji / Ganji / gruel.
Depending on the combination of the leaves added to the soup, decides the health benefits originating from it. According to Ayurveda Doctors, a different combination of leaves should use when treating different illnesses.
Sunil and Ayurvedic doctor living in Colombo suburb, described Ayurveda in this manner, “well Kola Kenda is an amazingly healthy drink and it is made by cooking red rice until the grains are fully cooked and infused with the goodness of Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), Hathawariya (racemosusis), Mukunuwenna or AMARANTHACEAE (Alternanthera sessilis) and curry leaves. This is as real as real food can get, certainly tastes way better than it looks and is 100 times good for the brain. Red Rice with its bran intact is nutty, wholesome, filling, loaded with antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamin B along with its mesmerizing colour. You should really consider trying if you haven’t yet.”
Strengthen the immune system in the Ayurvedic way
According to Ayurveda, planning what ones eat is important to reach a healthy life. Country-specific Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDGs) are one of the important tools recommended by FAO/WHO in order to improve healthy eating habits and lifestyles of individuals and populations. FBDGs was also endorsed by countries including Sri Lanka in the Framework for Action agreed upon at the Second International Conference on nutrition. However, Food-Based Dietary Guidelines are not a new concept for Ayurveda. Ayurveda healing system had been adopted many thousands of years ago.
It is a well-known fact that some micronutrients, as well as dietary components, have important roles in regard to the development and maintenance of our immune system to fight against viruses and bacteria. The healing system of Ayurveda heavily depends on food and drinks in order to fulfil this requirement, therefore, having healthy food and a balanced diet is an important component of the Ayurveda healing system.
Most Herbal drinks and Ayurvedic food strengthen your immune system. E.g. Most Kola Kend and herbal drinks contain the micronutrients vitamin A, D, B6, B12, folate, iron and zinc regulate the production, and development of new immune cells, which are essential for a successful defence against invaders. Furthermore, antioxidant nutrients vitamin C, E as well as the minerals iron, copper, zinc and selenium protect immune cells from stress caused by invading foreign bodies.
Where can I get Kola Kenda?
Kola Kenda is a traditional food, served in almost every Sri Lankan household. Usually, it is prepared at home, however now this tradition is decentralized, and it is widely available in hotels, restaurants as well as wayside small food outlets. In supermarkets, you can get many varieties of Kola Kenda in dry powdered versions and you just need to add a bit of water and cook it, in order to prepare a Kola Kenda. This Kola Kenda, an ancient, non-alcoholic, delicious rice drink, is served hot or cold. However, the local people prefer to drink it hot early in the morning, when their stomach is still empty.
The history of Kola Kenda
Kola Kenda is actually a microcosm of Sri Lankan culinary history. According to historical information, similar kinds of food is served on the island for many centuries, right from the beginning of Sri Lankan culture. The roots of Kola Kenda are closely connected to the Ayurveda healing method. Drinking Kola Kenda on regular basis helps you to maintain a healthy life. If you venture on an Ayurveda holiday package in Sri Lanka, the in-house Ayurveda consultant of the resort will decide on the best healthy diet for you, which is mainly comprised of fibre-rich vegetables, fruits, serial and Kola Kenda.
I briefly drifted to my childhood, to memories of my mother trying to cajole and coerce me into drinking a glass of Kola Kenda mixed with herbs, rice and coconut milk while keeping a small piece of jaggery, which is a coarse dark brown sugar made in Sri Lanka by evaporation of the sap of fishtail palm tree. This piece of Jaggery is a real stimulus for through to gulp the Kola Kenda.
Nutritional value of Kola Kenda
Because of the high nutritional value of Kola Kenda which includes vitamins, dietary fibre and some glucose, many claims that Kola Kenda has been given a prominent place in Sri Lanka’s traditional healing system, Ayurveda, which includes many beverages prepared using herbal plants, meant to clean a specific organ. And Kola Kenda is easy to easy-to-digest, gluten-free nutrients and it is good food for the helpful microorganism living in the abdomen.
Kola Kenda is best when you lost your appetite due to a cold and fever. Kola Kenda is easier to swallow, yummy and it contains a starch-breaking enzyme, it’s sort of pre-digested so kind to the digestive system, too.
The value of Kola Kenda and other herbal drinks goes beyond health benefits. According to Ayurveda, it helps to maintain beautiful shiny skin and healthy hair. The vitamin included in Kola Kenda is related to the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, skin and hair, therefore beauty effects are expected. It is believed that Kola Kenda contains anti-antioxidant that has the effect of suppressing skin ageing.
I know personally that it has some healing power against arthritis. One of the old ladies living with us is suffering from arthritis and she likes to prepare Kola Kenda and drink it once a day, but it should contain Hathawariya, then Kola Kenda considerable reduce her knee pains. It is believed that bone broth’s spike in popularity and similar kind of effects, can be expected by consuming Kola Kenda. According to Sunil, Kola Kenda contains a lot of elements that are still difficult to scientifically account for, which can cause many other hidden healing effects.
Sri Lankan traditional food breaks the boundaries
Not only Kola Kenda but also many other traditional beverages and foods have come to the fore recently with the COVID-19. A lot of people have started to see their benefits of them. Traditional food and beverages are given a very prominent place in the traditional healing system of Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, the correct food habit helps us to maintain a correct balance of wata, pita, kapha. Thereby we can eliminate many diseases and strengthen our immune system to fight against viruses and bacteria. Learn more about Ayurveda principles and Wata, pita and Kapha.
Since there is no medication is introduced to fight against coronavirus yet, the doctors in Sri Lank have resort to Ayurveda medicines that strengthen the human immune system. Corona patients are given a lot of Ayurveda medicine such as Kottamalli (brewing coriander seeds and ginger) along with hot and healthy beverages such as Kola Kenda, ginger tea, cinnamon tea, rice porridge and black Tea. Serving those drinks is the only difference when it comes to treatments for Corona patients in Sri Lanka and other countries.
At the moment, Kola Kenda and most other Ayurvedic herbal drinks are barely known outside of Sri Lanka. But that looks set to change. Ayurveda has found its way to traditional houses in many Asian countries such as Japan and China, Some Europeans E.g. Germans also have started to reap the healing effect of the Ayurveda healing system. The many dozens of Ayurveda resorts dotted along the Sri Lankan beach receive a large number of German travellers every year.
Ayurveda has become a ubiquitous part of Sri Lankan cuisine, going beyond its beverage status. Kola Kenda and traditional Sri Lanka food continuing succeed outside of Sri Lanka, and it is even predicted by BBC GOOD FOOD TEAM. BBC Good Food team -Sri Lankan cuisine, is the No.1 trending cuisine in 2019 on the list. of the 15 Best Islands in the World.
Using Ayurveda in health tourism
Corona has done a devastating impact on the tourism industry of Sri Lanka. However, the number of foreign tourists on the island is increasing gradually after relaxing the Covid-19 rules and regulations in Sri Lanka. Same time many hoteliers and Sri Lanka airlines give very tempting offers to foreign travellers in order to encourage them to visit Sri Lanka, therefore post covid period has become the best time to visit Sri Lanka. Hotel rates have plummeted to an unpresidential level due to the low number of visitors. Sri Lanka airlines have launched a “buy 1 get 1 free” making it very cheap to fly to Sri Lanka with Sri Lanka Airlines.
Health tourism is a branch of the tourism industry and many countries profited from it, eg our neighbour India attracts a large number of foreign travellers to its Ayurveda health resorts from many parts of the world. Even though Sri Lanka is not a big player in health tourism, a large number of Ayurveda resorts have been set up over the last few decades on the island. With Covid-19 holistic health systems like Ayurveda have been given a prominent place and identified as a way to increase the immune system of the people. The Ayurveda resorts in Sri Lanka have seen a growing demand for its healing packages since the Covid-19 pandemic. Thereby Ayurveda has been able to increase the tourist arrival on the island. The hotel owners are optimistic that the momentum will remain over the next few years as well.