Says vulnerable groups need more attention
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Following the spread of Coronavirus, COVID-19, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, Friday, called for inclusion of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, to stop spread the virus in the country.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Country Director, AAN, Ene Obi, saying the organization observed that a huge amount of funding has been committed to the COVID-19 response by both the government and private sector, yet there is no proper accountability put in place, which is likely to breed corruption and defeat the effectiveness of government’s noble efforts.
It also pointed out that the idea to sustain the school feeding programme is commendable, however children are not in school and there is no clear workable strategy for its implementation. Moreso, there is no clear information on how child education will be sustained nationally at this time.
Also, it raised concern on access to testing and quality of service received by COVID-19 infected persons as it remains a point of concern, which some persons reportedly paid for testing, while others have complained of neglect and favoritism of infected influential persons in the process.
According to the AAN attention on public health has shifted to the COVID-19 outbreak, which women and other Nigerians with other ailments are finding it difficult to access much-needed healthcare services; as some state governments are converting health facilities to isolation centres.
The statement reads in part, “ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) has followed with keen interest the Federal Government’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic. We applaud some of the steps taken by the Presidential Task Force and other stakeholders including the media and first responders who are working tirelessly to ensure that the novel virus is exterminated from our shores.
“ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, believes the COVID-19 response requires a wider and multi-dimensional perspective compared to the approach currently adopted by the FGN.
“As an anti-poverty non-governmental organization working to combat poverty and promote social justice in Nigeria for the past 20 years, ActionAid Nigeria is responding to the pandemic and we deem it fit to highlight our response and comment on governments response strategy thus far particularly as it affects our primary beneficiaries; women, children, youths and persons with disabilities.
“ActionAid Nigeria’s approach to emergencies focuses on cultivating women’s leadership and shifting power to local organizations and movements. ActionAid Nigeria is currently responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with Activista Nigeria; a youth movement consisting of 2957 youths, 28 women-led organizations, 12 Local Rights Programme partners and the CSO Network on Social Protection consisting of 60CSO groups across the federation.
“AAN’s immediate response is focused on protection services for women and girls, awareness, prevention, and control; this we are implementing through community-based facilitators who have received safety kits and the pandemic awareness materials including megaphones, flyers, posters, and banners with messages in local languages.
“Working with community-based facilitators is a safeguarding approach to mitigate the risk of staff and partners infecting or being infected in the response process. The community-based facilitators are leading the awareness campaigns in the communities and providing real-time updates on the situation.
“Also, strategic funds have been released from AAN to our project partners in different states to cater to the protection of women during the period of the epidemic. AAN has set up a 9-member Committee on COVID-19 finalizing a strategy and seeking innovative ways of working with relevant stakeholders during this period.”
Other observations made by the organizations include conditional cash transfer that was initially designed to capture a particular set of beneficiaries under a ‘normal’ social and economic environment, however, COVID-19 has altered that environment, hence, the beneficiaries list has expanded to include other sets of persons affected by the pandemic; Women constitute a higher number of Nigeria’s informal economic sector and the lockdown will significantly affect them due to the increased burden of unpaid care work, loss of work and markets for their goods. Yet, the government’s palliative measures are not prioritizing women. The exclusion of the Ministry of Women Affairs from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 further hinders the voices and needs of women being captured in governments’ response strategy.
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There is a high probability that increased cases of Gender-Based Violence especially towards women will be recorded at this time, but the Federal government’s response strategy did not capture a well-defined service provision for survivors; Information gaps, misconceptions and myths are still high amongst Nigerians, particularly at the grassroots. The concept of social distancing remains a mirage to many, campaign messages seems to omit children and persons with disabilities such as the deaf and blind; The lockdown of the states with infected cases is noble, but it will be ineffective if adjourning states do not follow suit.
Civil Society Organizations who are the independent observers with workable solutions to coordination challenges are not carried along in the implementation of the strategy.
The organization also in the statement recommended that “The Federal Government should set a clear accountability mechanism structure in partnership with Civil Society Organizations to track and monitor the utilization of resources committed to the COVID-19 response; Innovate and communicate ways on how child education will be sustained nationally at this time while they are at home; Ensure that access to testing and quality of service is prioritized irrespective of citizen’s status; Ensure that the focus on COVID-19 does not lead to the diversion of resources away from other existing health priorities such as efforts to eliminate maternal and child mortality.
“Work with CSOs and other existing structures who already have a database of the poorest of the poor including the aged, to ensure they benefit from the advance conditional cash transfer, as our findings show that some of the most vulnerable and poor are omitted from the list and will suffer other complications other than COVID-19; Prioritize vulnerable women in its palliative measures to cushion their loss of income because when women are reached, their household benefits. Electricity, water, food should be available to households to reduce the burden of care work on women.
“Include Gender-Based Violence (GBV) care as part of essential services, update GBV referral pathways and provide extra funding for GBV service provision; Ensure that awareness and prevention campaigns are intensified at the grassroots to demystify the myths and misconceptions on the novel virus. Such campaigns should be audience-specific considering the information needs of children, the aged, the blind and deaf.
“Ensure that states implement the lockdown order as a matter of urgency for effectiveness with adequate notice to enable citizens to prepare for the lockdown; and expand the membership of COVID-19 response team to include CSOs for effective coordination, accountability, and transparency in the entire response.”