NIGERIA: Scientists have long advised preparing to manage resources under a potentially deadly epidemic that would devastate the world. However, governments have to handle so many other things that this one came too soon for African countries, particularly Nigeria.
Nigeria maintains old records of epileptic health care responses and a hibernating economy scheme to help in some way better manage the future of the country. However, poverty and climate change are two other setbacks that add to the devastating situation that the largest African economy is going through with a lower than normal survival rate when all those factors combine for a single family.
The coronavirus is not the first plague to hit Nigeria. In recent years, Ebola and Lassa fever have claimed many lives. Until now, the country has had a poor record in the health care system along with an increasingly rigid economic advancement. These “loopholes” escalated during the COVID-19 period to further damage the healthcare sector, both government and private.
Apart from people suffering from lack of medical care, there are indications of inadequate health facilities and equipment that conducted further to the spread of COVID-19 in the country as people who stepped in hospitals were at a higher risk of exposure. This made the government construct more temporary isolation centers, especially in the areas of Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja.
Due to the suffering of the people from other health problems with a result as deadly as the coronavirus, many citizens voiced complaints about the prevalence of the coronavirus, adding that it made authorities look down on other diseases.
A mother of five explained how three of her children suffered from malaria during the period: “I was so scared to take them to the hospital because it seems now all forms of illness are interpreted as COVID-19.” She also added that she resorted to self-medication for her children “and within a few days, they all regained fitness.”
“We see how people are being forced into isolation centers across the country. Some of these people only have malaria symptoms and to my surprise, the new virus has taken over,” said Adesope Tayo, a business owner in Lagos.
Hardened economy and an obscured governmental intervention
By May 2021, the federal government said it has successfully disbursed N 500 billion to cushion COVID-19 hardship. This was in addition to many interventions such as cash transfers, CBN stimulus package, and food assistance. However, the impact of these interventions was not felt by the most vulnerable citizens.
Throughout the five-week national lockdown, which began on March 30, 2020, it was a story of “different strokes for different people” for many Nigerians. The first 30 days of the lockdown nodded to the facts that “the hunger virus is more deadly than the coronavirus,” as stated Isah Umar, a student at the Zungeru Polytechnic University.
A trader at Idi-Oro, Lagos, recounted her ordeal of running on an empty stomach “a few days into the lockdown.” It got to a stage she wasn’t going home to unite with her family because she couldn’t manage the required energy flow in her body to do so. “I was sleeping in my shop for almost to two months managing with co-traders, sharing what we have together,” added the trader.
A November 2020 survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that half of all households in Nigeria ran out of food 30 days into the lockdown. Besides evident lack of money and resources, this happened also because of inappropriate supply. The study also revealed that “in 18 percent of households, at least one member of the household went without eating for a whole day.” This is evident because the lockdown put a hold on all activities except essential services.
As the crisis intensified, the federal government announced in April 2020 that it would make conditional cash transfers of Naira 20,000 to poor Nigerians. This according to them was to be done through the National Social Registry (NSR), capturing only those who were registered on the platform. It turned out that many Nigerians were unable to benefit from this cash transfer partly since that the general information of citizens is largely mismanaged. Better electronic infrastructure would have allowed a better citizen reach under said circumstances.
The cash transfer scheme was an advantage for food distribution in the 36 states of the federation. “I did not receive any of these things that they claimed to have distributed. All we heard was that the government distributed palliative but some government officials reportedly hoarded it,” lamented Idris Kehinde, and added: “The aftermath of the hoarding was a situation where hoodlums were vandalizing warehouses where those palliatives were kept.”
A year later, few things have changed for the average Nigerian family and many are still worse off from hunger than the coronavirus. To remedy this, Nigeria introduced the eNaira electronic currency on October 25, 2021. We can only hope that this time both the infrastructure and the government response encompass all citizens.