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Working with rural communities to curb Covid-19 in the Niger Delta

Stories from the field

SDN’s Niger Delta COVID-19 Response Project seized upon church networks in our target communities as a primary channel for advocacy on a) the reasons why major COVID-19 protective measures are in place, b) good hygiene, and c) key social distancing measures. However, we noticed that a number of our church partners in the rural areas lacked essential hygiene kits—so in May (2020) I visited these communities, with my colleagues, and contributed buckets and liquid soaps to enable them to visually demonstrate the hygiene messages to their congregations. Check out the photos of us sharing the demonstration kits and pamphlets on accurate, evidence-based advice on Covid-19.

I clearly remember the 27th of February, 2020; the day the first confirmed Covid-19 case was announced and, like many Nigerians, I was petrified—mainly because I knew the Nigerian healthcare system lacks the capacity to fight this global pandemic. A recent assessment of our healthcare system revealed that there were only 71 hospitals with Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and 350 ICU beds in the country. The health sector has been chronically underfunded receiving only 4.5% of the total federal budget—falling far short of the 15% commitment made in 2001. In this reality, focusing efforts and scarce resources on creating awareness of the Covid-19, alongside evidence-based preventive measures, is the most pragmatic approach to reducing the human, economic, and security impacts of the virus. This is exactly what our Niger Delta COVID-19 Response Project supports, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK.

I strongly believe that Nigeria, and the Niger Delta states, still have the opportunity to beat this pandemic, and avoid the disaster this pandemic has caused in developed countries—but to achieve that, we need all hands on deck! Through targeted and responsive sensitisation, and expanding to hard-to-reach communities, I trust the informed population will be motivated to change—likewise, it is the responsibility of federal and state governments to listen and respond to the specific needs of the Niger Delta, and the people living in those states.

Ifeoma Ndekwu, Team Lead, NICORP

Published 01/06/2020

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