Calls for localized approach to tackle virus
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
A Civil Society Organisation, CSO, WASHMATA Initiatives, Monday, expressed concern over the Federal Government’s adopted measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus, COVID-19, as it was foreign and alien to the lives of Nigerians.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director, WASHMATA Initiatives, Dr. Boluwaji Onabolu.
Onabolu emphasized the need for the government to use locally conceptualized methods to effectively tackle the virus.
She said the government should focus on massive trucking of water to rural areas that lack access to clean water in order to achieve high compliance with hand-washing as a measure of reducing infection and spread of the deadly virus.
She said: “The peculiar and unique Nigerian characteristics which will limit and reduce the effectiveness of the proposed containment measures proposed thus far are the large population of the rural and urban poor; high utilization of domestic workers who commute daily; Social culture of large gatherings for funerals, weddings, religious meetings; Disparities in access to WASH, education and financial services though most of the government measures are dependent on adequate access to these services.
“Large proportion of informal business sector; Blindly religious people who will only listen to their religious leaders even if it means flouting government recommendations.
“The US has the highest number of infected people globally, while Italy has recorded as high as 1000 deaths in a single day. We simply cannot afford the catastrophic effects of the ‘Covidiocy’ and delay of their leaders.
“What are the Government measures and what are my recommendations for retrofitting them to ensure effectiveness? Frequent hand-washing with soap for 22 seconds (under running water?) is not possible in a situation where unlike 99 per cent access to water in the US almost two-thirds of Nigerians lack access to clean water.
“Government activates immediately the WASH procedures used for humanitarian and disaster response in collaboration with NEMA, the Ministries of Water Resources, Rural Water and Sanitation Agencies and relevant NGOs.
“Truck in water into vulnerable areas, slums, markets, health facilities and initiate urgent rehabilitation of non-functional water supplies for communities, health care facilities as well as emergency trucking in of water to the urban slums, rural poor and markets.
“Use of sanitizers, practice respiratory and personal hygiene is not a feasible solution if the large proportion of urban poor either don’t know what a sanitizer is nor will they prioritise the purchase of sanitiser before their daily subsistence.
“WASH disaster response to prioritize emergency supplies of sanitizers and exploration of the use of alternative sanitizers, like the stockpiled water purification tablets.
“Targeted and innovative communication about what, why, where and how of sanitizer use.”
She (Onabolu) further stated that “Social distancing is not feasible within Nigerian markets, churches, mosques or crowded taxis and buses used for daily commuting to work. The concept of gatherings of 50 is contradictory to the social distance guidance by the government. This needs to be changed.
“Secondly, explore feasible solutions with market women associations, religious leaders. Examples providing cash incentives to market traders to stay home; Curfew which prevents travel during the work hours, with the effect those daily commuters can no longer do so. Limit gatherings to not more than two people.
“Self – Isolation of returnees from high-risk countries will not work without monitoring and enforcement. The use of daily commuting domestic workers by the isolates is a gap ineffectiveness.
“Declare curfew which prevents travel during the work hours, with the effect that daily commuters can no longer do so, also, sensitization of employers and employees so that employers can pay the domestic workers not to come to work or live in for a defined period.
“Prohibition of large gatherings above 50 people; Note that effective prevention is not about numbers but about consistently keeping any two people apart beyond the transmission reach of the Covid-19 droplets.
“Sensitize religious leaders and prohibit all social and religious gatherings for a defined period. Enlist support of religious leaders to ensure compliance by their followers.”
Being and Environmental health and Epidemiology expert, she said on the Stay Home /Lockdown declaration by the government the idea of open markets proposed by Lagos State and others should not be encouraged, rather the government should reel out financial incentives as imperative approach to implementing a successful lockdown without rebellion, which must reach the large informal sector.
“A complete lockdown is a must; not the open markets proposed by Lagos state. A financial incentive is imperative to implement a successful lockdown without rebellion, but it must reach the large informal sector we have in Nigeria”, she said.
She also stated that there is a need for a strong partnership between the government and faith-based organizations that would engage their members in compliance with government directives.
“Government partnership with the churches and mosques using the religious groups’ large databases and existing means of communication with their followers. Engage the Nigerian political campaign strategy of reaching the masses with cash gifts, rice, and others to curry votes.
She also recommended that “innovative communication materials and dissemination methods to reach the urban poor and rural areas, markets and informal sector, youth, and religious bodies; Innovative partnerships facilitated by Health MDA with WASH, Mass media, market women associations, organized private sector, academia and most importantly with religious leaders who wield tremendous power and ability to influence their followers in either health-supportive or destructive behaviors.
“Innovative financing: Government cannot provide the necessary financial cushion alone, private sector, church and mosque resources need to be mobilized; and innovative Research and Development: Incentivize, motivate and accelerate Covid-19 related R&D in academic, educational and research institutions.”