COVID-19: Parliaments hold key to grassroots sensitisation – WAHO

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THE West African Health Organisation, WAHO, has said that members of Parliament in all ECOWAS Member States hold the key to curbing the spread of COVID-19 through community sensitisation.

Prof. Stanley Okolo, Director-General, WAHO, said this when he addressed members of the parliament at an ongoing Virtual Second Ordinary Session of the States.

Okolo said that Parliamentarians, as representatives of the people, were the closest to them and could use their direct contact to influence attitudinal change in line with the COVID-19 protocols.

He said that WAHO and other national governments had experienced challenges in sensitising the people, pointing out that the lawmakers “can help fill the gap’’.

“We have a challenge with engaging the community, with risk communication.

“We believe that facilitating the identification and involvement of local people, community, religious and traditional leaders and teachers, you as the parliamentarians are nearest to the grassroots and the people in your constituencies much more than any other arm of ECOWAS.

“We really need your help to engage these people because there appears to be a disjoint between people understanding and accepting what the public health and government are saying.

“We also need to support the organisation of people having community fora where they can say what they want.

“One of the things that we have asked the Heads of State and that they have done is to ensure they continue to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the vulnerable,” he said.

Prof. Okolo also harped on the free movement of people as the bedrock of ECOWAS, noting that it was working with governments to restore safe movements.

He stressed that since the community was moving from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of People, there was a need to sustain the free movement.

He, therefore, disclosed that plans were almost concluded on how to reopen the borders and protocols which must be enforced for the safety of travelers and member states.

“We understand the need to close borders because of lockdowns but we also know that lockdowns on their own do not flatten the pandemic.

“What lockdown does is to give you the opportunity to develop the social distancing, to disinfect areas, to reduce contact of people and also to build that into the psyche of people before you then start considering the balance between lockdown and destroying your economy.

“We have agreed on certain guidelines for opening up of our borders and we hope that parliament will continue to support that.

“The critical thing is that we have agreed on what travelers have to do before they leave their country, what they have to do at the departure point, and what they have to do on arrival.

“This is for everybody; nobody has immunity from this because anybody can spread coronavirus and anybody can pick up coronavirus.

“So, we are really keen to request that the parliament help support us in this,” he said. (NAN)

– Jul. 22, 2020 @ 16:15 GMT |

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