Medicine

Coronavirus – Nigeria: Empowering Children to stem the tide of the Coronavirus in Lagos, Nigeria

To prepare communities to protect themselves from the coronavirus,
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is supporting social
mobilisation efforts by the Lagos State Government
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, March 26, 2020/ — Thirteen-year old Elizabeth
Ogunsanya is not happy with the temporary closure of schools in Lagos,
Nigeria.

The closure is meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus
(COVID-19) in Nigeria’s bustling commercial capital. But Elizabeth is
not enjoying the enforced holiday. From the little she has heard about
the virus, she is afraid that in the one-room apartment that she
shares with her mother and two other siblings, in a densely-populated
suburb of the city, they are likely to get infected sooner, rather
than later.

“We all share one small room, and ventilation is poor,” said
Elizabeth, worriedly.

Lagos has a population of 21 million, according to figures released by
the National Population Commission in 2016. But four years later, with
an annual population growth rate of approximately 3 per cent, about
two million people are estimated to have been added to that number.

The population density of about 7,000 people/square meter doesn’t help
– and Elizabeth’s concern of an onset of community transmission of
COVID-19 is not unfounded, despite the fact that currently, all of
Nigeria’s 46 cases of the virus – expect one – are of people who had
recently travelled outside the country.

To prepare communities to protect themselves from infection, UNICEF
has adopted a three-pronged strategy to support community and social
mobilisation efforts by the Government. At the grassroots level, the
emphasis is on strong interpersonal community awareness raising. To
reach larger communities, mass media is used, and on the individual
level, U-Report, the SMS-based platform, is used for education and
public engagement. These three methods combined are reaching millions
at a time with lifesaving messages designed to keep them safe from
contracting the COVID-19 virus. UNICEF Nigeria’s U-Report platform
alone has nearly four million subscribers, the highest in the world.

In February, when the first COVID-19 index case was reported in
Nigeria, U-Report launched a COVID-19 Bot to respond to urgent
questions, supporting the Nigerian Government’s immediate response.
The COVID-19 Bot now also serves to tackle misinformation about the
virus, which is rampant across Nigeria. It facilitates reliable
information-sharing in local languages, particularly in hard-to-reach
communities with access to only SMS technology.

The COVID-19 Bot has also been deployed to reach thousands of
internally displaced people in conflict-ravaged north-east Nigeria.
More than 30,000 people have already accessed the COVID-19 Bot in the
north-east, receiving vital information about how they can protect
themselves in a very challenging environment.

Elizabeth took part in the UNICEF-supported awareness-raising and
sensitization training of community members in the Mende suburb of
Lagos. She is among the hundreds of adults and children in the 378
wards of Lagos State being empowered with information and training on
how to communicate COVID-19 prevention messages to their communities
and peers.

Her new role as a volunteer peer counselor in her community has given
Elizabeth new skills and an important role and purpose to fulfill in
her community. It has also served to allay her own fears.

“With what I have learned, I feel confident. If I take proper
precautions, there is really no need to be afraid anymore,” she said,
assuredly.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNICEF Nigeria.

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Source: UNICEF Nigeria