KINGSLEY OKOH in this report examines how the united efforts of the private sector under the aegis of Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) is raising the hopes of Nigerians that COVID-19 will soon be history.
The social impact of the private sector intervention in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria is quite enormous. It has led to healthcare delivery that is comparable with any system anywhere in the world in terms of standard, in a crisis that has dealt a severe blow on lives and livelihoods globally.
The support has enabled governments at both the federal and state levels to handle, with encouraging results, a health challenge that the country would otherwise not have been able to grapple with.
The intervention is in form of a massive collaborative effort involving more than 50 of the country’s private sector organisations and the federal government, led by Access Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading Tier-1 lenders. The partnership is being operated under the auspices of the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), and also involves the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and development partners that include the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The partnership’s three-pronged social intervention programme involves building of world-class testing, isolation and treatment centres for the management and treatment of COVID-19 cases; advocacy to get Nigerians involved in the fight against the pandemic and distribution of palliatives to the less privileged who bear the brunt of the various lockdowns across the country.
The existence of well-equipped and state-of-the-art isolation and treatment centres in different parts of the country, courtesy of the partnership, has contributed immensely to the high rate of recoveries recorded in the states where those centres are located. This is because patients are treated in environments considered the most conducive for an ailment that has yet to be fully understood, even in countries with the most sophisticated health systems.
The coalition started building of such centres in states that have high number of cases of the pandemic – like Lagos, Kano and Rivers states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja – with plans to build more centres in other parts of the country.
The advocacy aspect of the social intervention is considered critical to the success of the war against the pandemic, considering the fact that it requires not just the involvement, but also the responsibility of all Nigerians to make it succeed.
Government may provide the policy direction; the private sector, represented by CACOVID, may provide the resources needed to tackle the pandemic. But in the end, if Nigerians are not involved through strict adherence to the safety guidelines as stipulated by NCDC, the objective of eradicating the pandemic in Nigeria and, by extension, Africa, may remain a mirage.
“Despite the strides being made, we implore all Nigerians to adhere to stipulated social distancing guidelines and practice regular hand washing as directed by the World Health Organisation,” managing director and chief executive officer of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, advised recently at a forum where he talked about the bank’s involvement in the fight against COVID-19.
“We are positive that we can beat the spread of the virus if we all comply with the safety measures as advised by the NCDC and WHO.”
The advocacy is also targeted at helping to change the mindset of Nigerians on the realities of a pandemic that is not known to have any cure at the moment. This has become necessary considering the criticism, by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, of the attitude of Nigerians towards the fight, which is frustrating the effort to keep the disease in check. The poor attitude of Nigerians towards implementation of the safety guidelines has been blamed on beliefs that border on ignorance, religion and superstition.
Apart from advocating strict adherence to safety guidelines, the partnership is helping to drive home the point that testing positive to the Coronavirus is not a pronouncement of a death sentence, as the high rate of recovery has shown, both in Nigeria and around the world. In Nigeria, the fatality rate is put at three per cent, meaning that a majority of those infected have recovered and resumed normal life.
The coalition is also concerned about the daily survival of Nigerians in the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder. It recognises that while it is important that people stay at home for their own safety, it is equally important not to ignore their existential needs, even if staying at home achieves the objective of keeping them out of harm’s way, as far as contracting the Coronavirus is concerned.
“If you ask people to stay at home so they won’t contract the Coronavirus, you have to worry about the hunger that may come with staying at home”, Wigwe said. “Many people have the fear that even before the Coronavirus gets to them, they would have died of hanger virus.”
Informed by this reality, the partnership set for itself the ambitious target of distributing food items and other essentials to 1.67 million households across the country as part of efforts to fight COVID-19 – arguably the most impactful palliatives intervention in the country since the pandemic began. The items include rice, beans, vegetable oil, bread, garri, beverages and other items.
The exercise, which entails dispatching some members of the coalition to the 774 local government areas of the country for the distribution of the palliatives, is considered another demonstration of the spirit of brotherhood that defines Nigerians, as well as their predilection to being their brothers’ keeper. It has gone a long way to mitigate the impact of hunger that has been brought about by stay-at-home orders, especially for Nigerians whose ability to put food on the table depends on what they make on a daily basis.
The social intervention initiative of the partnership offers hope of a successful mitigation of the impacts of COVID-19, and will hopefully contribute to flattening of the curve of the virus in Nigeria. This hope is hinged on the fact that CACOVID is not lacking in capacity to prosecute the fight, even if there is no end in sight at the moment.
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