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Monday, July 06, 2020

Covid-19: Combating pandemic in SouthEast Nigeria - ITREALMS

Commentary@ITREALMS

The Social Contract between government and people in many states of Nigeria can be described as fragile. With the arrival of the global Coronavirus pandemic, already stretched State Governments with the exception of a few states in the SouthWest and SouthSouth geopolitical zones found themselves floundering. 
The five states in the SouthEast Zone, comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo State were severely challenged by the social and economic disruption caused by Covid-19.

When Covid-19 landed shores in Nigeria early in 2020, the SouthEast had no facilities for testing and the state governments lacked robust and responsive institutions to confront the Coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, the situation in the SouthEast has improved since March 2020 with Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo now having Test Centres for Covid-19. However, the level of awareness of Coronavirus virus remains low particularly in the rural areas. Compliance with guidelines for wearing facemasks, hand washing, social distancing, etc is nonexistent particularly in the markets and places of worship.

In response to the prevailing situation in the SouthEast, Nzukolabs www.nzukolabs.com.ng based in Enugu teamed with another technology focused civil society organization LearnFactory www.Learnfactory.com.ng based in Abia State to form the SouthEast Coronavirus Intervention Network, SCIN www.scin.com.ng. SCIN is tasked with a primary focus on Advocacy and Awareness in the rural communities.


The SouthEast is characterized by autonomous communities (villages), each lead by a Traditional Ruler (Eze / Igwe). Autonomous communities are the bedrock of traditional rural life and are recognized by State Governments. There are circa 2000 Autonomous Communities in the SouthEast. Part of the SCIN approach was to onboard Traditional Rulers in the Advocacy & Awareness Campaign through a series of Community Engagements. The SCIN plan also included a sustained campaigned on Social Media for the youth demographic in rural areas many of whom have Social Media Accounts.

SCIN sought support from Ford Foundation, www.fordfoundation.org and guidance from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, www.ncdc.gov.ng to embark on a media campaign comprising Radio Jingles (in English and Igbo dialects) in Abia, Enugu and Imo State. The emphasis on Igbo dialects was important to the campaign. Igbo language is both rich and diverse depending on what part of the SouthEast one is located. Using local dialects would also reinforce the localization of the messaging. Some of the dialects in which Covid-19 messages were broadcast include Nsukka, Nwga, Owerri, etc.

Working with teams that comprised Public Health Practitioners and Media Analysts across three states, SCIN has put the SouthEast on the radar as a region where the scourge of the Coronavirus is taken seriously. While governments in the region cannot be left alone to cope with the fallout of the pandemic, it is clear that a lot more can be done with improved partnerships and greater involvement of the various stakeholders particularly at the grassroots where ignorance and stigmatization still predominates.


SCIN is just one of the many initiatives in the SouthEast targeted at confronting Covid-19. The restrictions on movement (now partially lifted), the disruption to the onset of the farming season, closure of schools, etc have all taken a toll on the economy and communities in the SouthEast. The intervention of SCIN, the resilience of its people and improved government management should combine to ensure that the communities and people of the zone come out of the 1st wave better able to cope with the long-term effects of the pandemic.
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