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The COVID19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis globally. This is placing a high
demand on humanity’s resilience to the limit and is significantly impacting the world economically, socially as well as environmentally.
To mitigate the risk and contain the outbreak,
some countries embarked on total lockdown and this particularly impacts various vulnerable groups across the world.
In Nigeria, this has resulted in severe hunger, crime, and increasing unrest associated with the frustration of key vulnerable groups as a result of the lockdown and lack of access to supplementary social palliatives.
To this effect, the most affected groups in
Nigeria are the poor, homeless, disabled, slum dwellers, pregnant women, internally displaced
persons as well as those living with underlying health conditions.
This situation highlights the lack of existing social structures and calls for an urgent re-evaluation of how we define governance and development in Nigeria.
This is an emergency that shines a blatant light on the fundamental fragility, inequalities, and the lack of strategic and concrete social protection for all
As Nigeria prepares to slowly re-open after the lockdown, here are key measures to ensure that the re-opening does not lead to a disastrous second-wave of the coronavirus in Nigeria.
Key Population Targeting
In 2018, the World Poverty Clock classified Nigeria as the global capital of absolute poverty.
Such classification mandates that the post-COVID19 lockdown interventions prioritize the welfare of this population.
Although COVID19 is a clinical situation, the impact of the global economic crisis, as a result, requires that social interventions prevent further plagues from
targeting the most vulnerable groups. Ultimately, social interventions post-shutdown will aid containment.
Lessons from the management of the Ebola crisis in vulnerable communities in Congo show that balancing clinical care with social support aids containment. Vulnerable groups tend to comply with restrictive measures such as social distancing when they are able to meet their social needs and are able to get accurate appropriate information.
Additionally, due to a lack of access to the internet and poor electricity, the government must move its corporate communication from social and traditional media and disseminate it in ways that communities
can digest. For example, community town criers.
Strategic Social Distancing Measure
The key question for post COVID19 lockdown in Nigeria remains, what does social distancing
mean for its vulnerable populations who live and work in crowded areas? How does this affect
informal markets and how will mobility in public transportation ensure social distancing? And the
ability to navigate this will make the difference between successfully flattening the infection
curves and a high infection rate in the second wave of infection.
These questions call for immediate strategies on how to ensure social distancing while respecting the right to movement and livelihood activities, particularly in vulnerable settings.
The Lagos state government has issued guidelines for easing post-lockdown in the city, this guideline includes specific market days, restaurants opening for deliveries using only gloves, online education, facemask, and sanitizers and loading of 60% capacity per bus in public transportation.
In terms of containment, these guidelines are somewhat impractical. Lagos is a city with over 20 million people.
Having specific market days will fuel overcrowding which in turn defeats the maintenance of social distancing in the open market. Alternatively, the state could partner with local government and
market associations to zone areas, allocate all households and traders of all food classified
markets from Monday to Saturday in order to reduce overcrowding. Secondly, online education
highlights inequalities as it fails to take into consideration the fact that many lower-income
households and slum children will either not have electricity to power their phones and or will
not be able to afford data for daily online classes.
Women’s Right and Gender Justice
Women play a critical role in the COVID19 response in households and healthcare systems. They makeup 70% of the global health workforce and therefore, at this time, Nigeria must devise means to adequately protect and support women to cope with the various impacts of such responsibilities and their risk of infections.
Additionally, the disruption of COVID19 to the health system could result in the neglect of pregnant and nursing mothers, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health —this disruption of services has grave consequences to the
lives of millions of women in Nigeria.
Therefore, it is necessary for the government to adopt a multi-sectoral approach by integrating women related challenges to the response of the
COVID19 crisis in Nigeria.
It is recommended that a gender lens is applied in tracking and monitoring activities of post-COVID19 lockdown.
Protection of Civic Rights
There are various claims of police harassment and extortions from essential service providers
and many allude to the fact that this is the main reason for the unregulated increase in food
Some state governments are targeting whistleblowers who are actively providing information on outbreaks and the inadequacies of appropriate responses in their states.
Such oppressive means to restrict civic freedom should be avoided as it is not only dangerous at
these times but makes containment of COVID19 challenging.
Also, the government measures to restrict mobility and enforce curfew must consider challenges such as traffic in cities like Lagos and ensure to balance public protection with fundamental human rights.
Conditional Cash Transfers
With regards to the targeted conditional cash transfers, it is unrealistic to expect that the
government can afford to pay every vulnerable person in Nigeria.
Alternatively, the government could focus on reaching the workers’ informal sector and unemployed persons, while concurrently, mandating pension companies to release 25% to all pension account holders to survive this period.
Prioritizing Healthcare Workers
There are news reports circulating on social media that the Akwa Ibom state government
arrested two health care workers for protesting the non-payment of their 16th month salaries.
Healthcare workers are globally putting their lives at risk as frontrunners of the fight against COVID19 globally, therefore, now more than ever, the Nigerian government cannot afford to owe healthcare workers’ salaries and also oppress them for speaking up.
The COVID19 outbreak has created an opportunity for Nigeria to re-evaluate its governance structures and to re-direct it towards a framework that sees sustainable development through the lens of prioritizing human needs and investment. We must become committed to putting human interest above all else and to see the interconnectedness of human rights, social needs, and the Sustainable Development Goal’s approach to leaving no-one behind.
It is critical for the government to prioritize healthcare, housing, safety, and human rights, as
it is only through this we will be able to lift more people out of endemic absolute poverty.
The underpinnings of this is a new social concept between the government, the people, and the economy, which precisely reduces inequalities and creates a blueprint for a sustainable Nigeria.
Rebecca E Roberts is a sustainable development expert and researcher
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