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Community stories: covid-19 intervention in local communities

According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), there are currently 20,919 confirmed cases of the Corona Covid 19 virus in Nigeria. 13,285 of them are active cases. Rivers State accounts for 930 confirmed cases. In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, the Rivers State Government exercised lockdown measures in some Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state, shut down major markets, recreational facilities, and worship centres—and placed a temporary ban on inter-state travel. The state witnessed a migration of people from urban areas to rural communities, where the lockdown was not being implemented, for easy access to foodstuff.

However, restriction on both human and vehicle movement within the state has been relaxed, which in itself poses a high risk for spread of the virus and raises a cause for concern.  While the State Government and private sector were focused on cushioning the economic impacts through the distribution of palliatives, gaps were still identified in observation of social distancing guidelines. The perception of people was to gather funds to purchase foodstuff and other essential as opposed to procuring hand sanitisers and face masks.

To this effect, SDN stepped in to support government efforts in reaching underserved communities in Rivers State. The project team, with the help of members of the Community Monitoring and Advocacy Group (CMAG), carried out community sensitisation and intervention across three LGAs of the state as a response strategy to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. Specifically, the project team visited Nonwa and Kpite communities in Tai LGA, Ogu community in Ogu/Bolo LGA, Okrika Town and Okochiri community in Okrika LGA. The objective was to contribute to a reduction in community transmission of the virus through public health sensitisation exercises and distribution of personal protective equipment to community members.

Markets were the focal point and the sensitisation exercise took place in major markets in these communities. The project team visited these markets and pasted posters on high-visibility walls with infographics on the Dos and Don’ts of using face masks and also shared information about Coronavirus and how citizens can be safer.

On 17th June, 2020, the project team visited the Kpite Market which ordinarily attracts close to 300 people daily. Traders and customers were seen without face masks and there were no buckets and soap in sight to aid regular handwashing—especially after touching surfaces or items for sale. The project team discussed with traders about the importance of observing health guidelines and proceeded to distribute face masks and hand sanitisers to traders and customers alike. The project team met with a market representative, Comrade Umale Prince who doubles as Confidential Secretary to the Kpite Market Chairman. He was handed the buckets and hand wash, and proceeded to demonstrate proper hand-washing to the community women. Comrade Prince stated that the intervention is commendable and supplements government efforts. In his words;

Apart from the palliatives that was shared initially by the government, no other intervention has been carried out by any organisation or individual. This is the first time that an NGO will visit us and distribute these materials to help combat the spread of this pandemic. So I want my people to always put on their face masks, make use of their hand sanitizers and obey the rules.

Comrade Prince

Word spread through the Kpite community and the neighbouring community Tua-Tua about the distribution of educational posters, as well as the face masks and hand sanitisers. As a result, some community members visited the Kpite CMAG Chairman and pleaded for more items to be distributed so they can also take action and play their part in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus.

The news is at every point in the community that this is what the local government have not done; I was visited by some representatives from Tua Tua, they saw and read some of the posters and pleaded that same sensitisation be done so that they can also get face masks and sanitisers that will come in handy whenever they visit any public place like the church or market.

Nordee Buabee

Next, the project team visited Nonwa community in Tai LGA and visited the Central market which attracts at least 200 people daily and put up more educational posters, handed out masks, hand sanitizer, and hand-wash buckets. Here, there was a special moment for the project team: while sensitisation was ongoing, a young person rode past with a passenger on his motorbike. After a while, he returned to view one of the posters. Taking time to read the information, he walked up to a team member and politely asked for a face mask and hand sanitiser. He revealed that he used to think Coronavirus was a conspiracy by corrupt politicians to divert funds—but from what he has read and seeing the project team distributing protective materials, he realized the need to take it seriously.

After Nonwa community, Ogu community in Ogu/Bolo LGA and Okrika Town and Okochiri communities in Okrika LGA were visited on 18th and 22nd of June for awareness raising and distribution of face masks, buckets, hand wash and sanitisers.

From our interaction with community members, we’ve clearly seen the importance and impact of sensitisation on behaviour change. There is need for this intervention to be replicated and scaled up so that more community members can be reached and take deliberate actions to curb the spread of Coronavirus. Current projections indicate that Coronavirus will be here for a while, but it will continue to be our collective responsibility to adhere to health guidelines, protecting ourselves and others during the pandemic.

By Flora Asieri, Senior Project Officer, SDN

Confirmed Cases of Covid-19 by State

States AffectedNo. of Cases (Lab Confirmed)No. of Cases (on admission)No. DischargedNo. of Deaths
Figure1: Table extracted from the NCDC website shows number of confirmed cases in Rivers as at 23rd June, 2020

With support from the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua foundation

Published: 02.07.2020

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