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Coalition develops advocacy toolkit to strengthen Nigeria’s COVID-19 response

Coalition develops advocacy toolkit to strengthen Nigeria’s COVID-19 response

To strengthen Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a coalition of health advocacy organisations has developed an emergency response advocacy toolkit.

The International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), the Health Sector Response Coalition (HRSC) and several other health advocacy organisations developed the advocacy kit meant to provide guidance for developing advocacy messages and materials using available evidence on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the citizens.

Right from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts warned of a ticking time bomb in Africa as many feared that the coronavirus would overwhelm the continent’s fragile health care systems, resulting in massive fatalities.

Ten months into the pandemic era, the continent of over a billion people appear to be coping compared to Europe and America where the second wave of infections has already begun, demanding a second bout of lockdowns and restrictions.

While researchers are still struggling to understand why the numbers have been low in the continent, health experts in Nigeria are raising concerns over several loopholes in the country’s COVID-19 response that is capable of disrupting existing efforts in containing the contagion.

Nigeria continues to record more cases of the virus but citizens appear to have lowered their guard with authorities looking lax in enforcing control measures amid concerns that the second wave could be well on its way.

In the past three days alone, Nigeria recorded almost a thousand cases taking the total figure in the country to almost 69,000 to indicate a possible resurgence in cases after weeks of low numbers.

The country’s limited testing capacity and inconsistent contact tracing has been a major concern. There has also been a troubling uptick in mystery cases which health experts believe raise more questions.

Advocacy tool kit

Funded by the MacArthur Foundation, a preliminary review of the national emergency response capacity by the advocacy tool kit on COVID-19 systems rescue and citizen’s action (CORECA) showed that the three tiers of government face many challenges such as inadequate resources, inadequate early warning and surveillance systems, inadequate transport and communication facilities and inadequate human, technical, and material capacities.

“Strengthening our health systems is imperative in the face of multifarious threats – existential and man0made – and the dynamics of today’s living. All of which encompass all demographic components of the society”, ISMPH executive director, Moji Makanjuola, said during the launch of the kit.

“This emergency response advocacy toolkit will hopefully be very effective indeed, to deliver desired outcomes for our advocacy efforts and for effecting a functional and efficient healthcare services and health service delivery,” she said.

The executive director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, described the toolkit as a timely “tool towards management and control of COVID-19”.

Oyewale Tomori, a renowned virologist, said Nigeria needed to improve efforts in disease control and emergency preparedness. He said it was time the country stopped neglecting what it is supposed to do and running from pillar to post, begging for aid when emergencies happen.

Advocacy on Infodemic

One area highlighted by the toolkit as a major grey area that needs more advocacy is on the level of infodemic – perceptions, awareness, misconceptions, and misinformation – about COVID-19.

Even though Nigeria is facing the possibility of a second wave, millions of citizens believe the nation has moved past the worst of the coronavirus.

Majority of about 50 Nigerians engaged online by PREMIUM TIMES in a bid to gauge perceptions on the imminent second wave believe the worst is gone, hence the safety protocols are more or less, a mere protocol.

With Yuletide fast approaching, Nigerians now reckon it is safe to let their guards down – hands are no longer washed often, facemasks are almost forgotten, mass gatherings are now commonplace, parties, weddings and even protests are back on the cards.

Nearly three in every 10 Nigerians in a poll conducted in late April said they believe they have some form of immunity from the coronavirus.

The survey conducted by NOIPolls Limited, a country-specific polling service, showed that poor knowledge and perception of the virus is capable of sabotaging gains made in keeping the contagion at bay. Fact-checkers and health officials have since been working to provide accurate information and save lives.

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has repeatedly advised Nigerians to suspend their Christmas and New Year travels to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

“There should be advocacy for possible integration of infodemic in the legislative actions and measures against fake news, to mitigate the impact on essential health care services and the victims of social stigma and discrimination against COVID-19 survivors,” the toolkit noted.

According to the kit, such advocacies will also reduce the tendency for vaccine hesitancy and “frank resistance by the citizenry.”

“There should be advocacy for inclusive policies, decisions, and actions to ensure that all measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic touch on the most vulnerable groups, especially, women, girls, children, and the elderly.

“This will address the impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods and other social services. Specifically, lessons from COVID-19 should be used as an opportunity to establish a more structured Social Protection System in Nigeria and other African countries, with adequate and specific provisions for women, girls, children and the elderly that are usually more disproportionately impacted in natural disaster, including medical emergency situations”, it recommended.

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