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The Impact of Covid-19 Global Pandemic on the Health and Well-Being of Nigerians  – By OGBAGA, Sunday Thomas

The Impact of Covid-19 Global Pandemic on the Health and Well-Being of Nigerians – By OGBAGA, Sunday Thomas

The Impact of Covid-19 Global Pandemic on the Health and Well-Being of Nigerians

The Coronavirus disease, also called COVID-19 (“CO” for Corona, “VI” for Virus, “D” for Disease, and ‘19” for 2019) is an infectious disease caused by novel corona virus. It is a new strain of coronavirus that has never been identified in humans before now. The first reported case of the virus was recorded in Wuhan, China in late 2019, where it started spreading like wildfire to other countries of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a public health emergency in January 2020. They also established that the virus can be transmitted from person to person through droplets   of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. Some of the identified symptoms exhibited by an infected person are said to include fever, dry cough, sore throat, nausea, fatigue, and multiple organ failure.

Given that the case of the virus is new in humans, there has been no proven treatment or vaccine for it, which made it possible to kill thousands of people in a very short while. Subsequently and in view of the rapid spread of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global pandemic in the beginning of March 2020.  As of May 2020, the COVID-19 has been reported in over 187 countries and territories and over 257,000 deaths recorded.

As a result of the declaration, various governments across the world brought out measures to forestall the virus from spreading further in which “lockdown” were one of measures.  This precaution simply means that movement should be restricted—except for those on essential duties— and people should stay at home to keep safe.

In line with this, the Federal and State government, in the interest of the Nigerian populace, have mandated everyone to stay at home while necessary actions are being taken to contain the epidemic. However, the crux of the matter is that in Nigeria where poverty is perceptibly deep-seated, staying at home for weeks has, no doubt, plunged many Nigerians into lots of challenges. Such challenges include, but not limited to:

Massive hunger: It is on record that over 87 million Nigerians are living in abject poverty. As a result of the lockdown, many people are stranded and unable to cater for their daily bread. Thus, there has been widespread hunger in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. The saying goes now that the “hunger-virus” might kill more people than the corona virus.

Insecurity: An idle hand, it is said, is the devil’s workshop. Proportionally, a hand that is both idle and poor is the devil’s headquarters. Frankly speaking, this pandemic has exacerbated the rate of social vices and insecurity in Nigeria. There ample examples of banditry reported daily in the news. The notorious “one-million-boys” gang currently ravaging the residents of Lagos state is a prime example.

Psychological and mental trauma: This outbreak and the subsequent lockdown policy have increased mental and psychological issues such as depression, tension, anxiety, paranoia, stigmatization of those who have COVID-19 related-symptoms, suicide among others.

Intimidation and maiming of Nigerians by security agents: The erratic behaviour of some security agents has continued to rear its ugly head since this lockdown. A lot of Nigerians have been extorted, maimed and killed in the process by overzealous law enforcement officers enforcing the lockdown policy.

Domestic violence: During this lockdown period there have also been reports of increased rate of domestic violence and abuse.

The Way Forward: There is no gainsaying that the current siege of COVID-19 has wreaked unspeakable havoc on the health and well-being of Nigerians. However, we know, alas, that prevention is better than cure, and obedience is far better than sacrifice. Hence, the need to stay safe cannot be overemphasized. There are various roles we can play to help each other survive these challenges. Such roles are collective responsibilities that involve everyone—individuals, the government, churches, traders, employers, network service providers etc.

We can help each other by being generous; as this is an emergency that nobody planned for. If you have even a few that could be spared, please, be generous to share with your neighbours—food, beverages, toiletries, data, money etc, no matter how small, can go a long way in helping others. It is encouraging to note that many wealthy Nigerians and individuals have been helping to provide much needed palliatives to their needy communities. Such kind gestures should be upheld.

It is important also as individuals to heed to government advice to stay at home so that others could be inspired to do same. When people around us see that we are obeying the sit-at-home precaution, they will be inspired to follow suit. But when we flaunt the order, others will do same. In the same pedestal, the act of making mockery of those staying at home, especially as it is usually done in public yards, is a rogue attitude we must desist from. The easiest way to contract the virus is by exposing ourselves.

Another important way individuals can help is to avoid the spread of fake news. At this moment in time, people are anxious and tensed, which can make them vulnerable to several baloneys being concocted in fake news. Therefore, spreading unverified information or fake news can cause more panic and endanger people’s lives. So, we must refrain from spreading it. Before sharing any news, we should endeavour to verify it. And if its sources cannot be verified, don’t share.

It is also important that those selling essential commodities especially food; do not unnecessarily hike the price of their goods and services: The current unprecedented hike in the price of goods and services is a dishonorable act capable of aggravating people’s predicaments. Although some pundits have argued from an economist point of view that “high demands always lead to an increase in price”. However, it is not particularly true. The present scenario boils down to greed and sheer manifestation of our cruelty to one another. If you are a businessman or woman, it is important to understand that this is never a time to play money-game. Thus, those in the habit of hiking the price of goods and services or creating artificial scarcity should refrain from such practice.

Whilst the outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated the rate of unemployment, it is a no-brainer to forecast that post COVID-19 era will be the end of several orthodox ways of doing things. The wave of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing will rob off heavily on businesses, schools, churches, NGOs, and government institutions. Face-to-face businesses, transactions, learning, and services will be reduced to the barest minimum. This will create a pool of jobs for Computer programmers, Mobile app developers, Blockchain experts, writers for search engine optimization, Web UI/UX designers, WordPress developers, animation experts, digital marketers among other soft-skills. With internet access, these skills can be learnt online. Hence, Nigerians should use this lockdown period to do the needful and prepare for post-COVID-19 opportunities.

The Role of Government: The advent of Covid-19 has further exposed the fact that there is abject lack of healthcare infrastructure in the country. It is on record that the Chairman of the presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation stated that he was unaware that the Nigerian Healthcare sector is in a very bad shape. Therefore, the pandemic is an opportunity for government to examine state of the national health care and provide much needed funding to bring this sector up to the required international standard. It is also imperatively urgent for the government to undertake massive social protection initiatives capable of cushioning the crushing economic and health effects of the current pandemic and plan for the future. Such should include honest and inclusive sharing of relief items (foodstuff, toiletries, hand sanitizers etc) to the people. It will not be out of place for the government to pay Nigerians a token amount of money in order to lessen the financial burden on them. Other countries have done it; the giant of Africa can do it as well. More importantly, the billions of naira donated to the government by several well-meaning Nigerians for the fight against the virus should be well utilized.

Furthermore, the Federal and State government through the Nigerian Consumers Protection Council and other relevant bodies should immediately make concerted and well-coordinated effort to regulate the price of goods and services across the nation. Also, the need for adequate power supply can never be overemphasized. People need adequate power supply to preserve their perishables, reduce boredom, charge their gadgets, relax etc. Therefore, the current epileptic power supply can compound the hardship. The government should as a matter of urgency take necessary steps to ensure that Nigerians have adequate power supply in this critical moment.

Security agencies should double their efforts to ensure the security of life and property because people may be unable to comply with the sit-at-home order when they are not assured of their security. In the same pedestal, the security agents should be well cautioned against bullying, extorting, maiming and killing of innocent Nigerians while enforcing the lockdown policy. Where prima facie cases are established, the officers should be duly prosecuted.

Employers should as a matter of corporate social responsibility do everything humanly possible to pay their staff. It is regrettable that, several employers; including government establishment and those in the private sector are yet to pay their staff for the month of March and April. A hungry person will likely disregard the sit-at-home order thus putting themselves and others at risk.

All faith groups including Christian and Islamic leaders should help encourage their faithful to comply with government and healthcare directives that will help stop the spread of the virus. They must desist from conducting any religious activities at this moment and encourage their members to stay at home while also helping to provide relief materials to their members in order to aid them navigate the challenges of this time.

The Telecommunication and Mobile Network providers in their own response can afford to reduce the cost of data and airtime purchase, to help people stay informed with the ability to reach out to loves ones.  This may be in addition to creating reasonable free data promo to their customers. Making these provisions will help suppress boredom and keep most people busy. In the crave for this, thousands of Nigerians had already taken the request to twitter with the hashtag #SlashDataCost tagging all network providers in Nigeria. If this request is granted, it will undoubtedly help people especially the youths ameliorate the burdens the pandemic has created.

The media has a very important role to play and should be at the forefront of encouraging people to stay at home by educating them on the need to do so. To this end, media outlets in Nigeria, especially the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and their affiliates, should double their efforts on developing programmes, jingles and campaigns that will help educate people on the need to stay at home.

Finally, in conclusion to this essay, it will be important reiterate that in times of global pandemics like this, heeding to precautions is usually the distinguishing factor between a survivor and a victim. Although the stay-at-home order is so challenging, let’s, please, help ourselves. We have survived Ebola, yellow fever, cholera, smallpox etc. This too shall pass!

 

 

This is the winning Essay of the JOJ Memorial Foundation Maiden Essay Competition  

Submitted by OGBAGA, Sunday Thomas

A Student of the Department of Business Administration Amadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria Kaduna State, Nigeria. Ogbagasunday3@gmail.com

3 Comments

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