Unintended Blessings of Ebola Outbreak

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Even in churches, communions are now served on the hand because of the fear of Ebola

The fear of contracting Ebola virus disease has brought about orderliness among commuters in Nyanya motor park, Abuja, and also business boom for marketers of hand sanitisers

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Sep. 15, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT  |

UNTIL recently, waiting for a bus at the Nyanya motor park in the federal capital territory Abuja used to be a tortuous exercise for residents of the area. Other than the fact that the buses are barely enough to cater for the large number of commuters, the long queues and constant brawling among the passengers and officials of the  company in charge of the buses makes commuting to work and other destinations a nightmare for many passengers who use the park.

But since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease, EVD, in Nigeria, sanity appears to have been restored at the park. Although there is no confirmed case of the disease in the city, passengers no longer push and shove themselves just to board the buses. They stand in long queues patiently waiting for their turns to get on the bus.

Apart from trying to minimize body contact, another thing that has become common amongst the passengers is the use of sanitizers. While standing on the queue and sitting on the buses, some of the passengers can be seen clutching small containers of sanitizers from which they intermittently pour and rub on their hands.

Just as it is in the park, the use of sanitizers has also become a popular trend in banks, churches, mosques, markets and other public places. At one of the new generation banks visited by Realnews, security officials gave customers some potions of sanitizers before letting them into the bank. In the banking hall, the smell of disinfectant hung thickly in the air and the bankers who attended to customers making bank deposits also wore safety gloves.

Passengers no longer rush to get tickets; now they prefer to wait on long queues
Passengers no longer rush to get tickets; now they prefer to wait on long queues

The experience was similar to what obtained in some of the churches in various parts of the city where worshippers were also offered sanitizers before going into the church. The fear of contacting Ebola has not only made Abuja residents to become more health conscious, it has also created business boom for those who deal in the sale of sanitizers. The demand of various types of sanitizers has risen so much that they are now being sold in traffic and commercial vehicles.

Some pharmaceutical companies are already taking advantage of the situation. For instance, Neimeth, a popular pharmaceutical company, recently unveiled its latest product which it described as affordable hand sanitizer. Emmanuel Ekunno, Neimeth chief executive officer in Nigeria, said because the Ebola virus has become a global challenge, it is also imperative that in the absence of a cure or appropriate vaccine, to come up with a product that serves as prevention against the disease.

“It is far less expensive than sanitizers that cost N600 to N800. This is between N100 and N150. We are doing everything to bring alternative packs. As we progress and we are encouraged, the prices will go down. We are promoting local manufacturing, creating job opportunities despite the challenges, we are not exporting our currency, we are strengthening our currency. We want to thank government for what it has done so far and congratulate others that have survived and tell them that we are in this business together and we are going to be in this together”, he said.

Further investigations also show that the increase in the demand for sanitizers has also led to an increase in the price of the available products. Chinyere Okoye, who runs a cosmetic shop in Nyanya, said the small sized sanitizers that used to sell for around N300 before the outbreak of Ebola, now costs about N500.

“I have always had these products here but people don’t buy them. Now that Ebola is here, the demand and the prices have gone up. It is really moving now and many cosmetic sellers are stocking their shops with sanitizers. I can tell you that I have exceeded my sales target many times since the outbreak and I have seen my wages double, because the more I sell, the more I earn as commission”, she said.

Many shops are now stocked with hand sanitizers
Many shops are now stocked with hand sanitizers

A sales representative of one of the pharmaceutical companies marketing sanitizers at Nyanya motor park also disclosed that the fear of Ebola has created a ready market for producers and sellers of sanitizers. According to her, she’s had difficulty trying to market sanitizers to Nigerians in the past, but with the EVD outbreak, she doesn’t do much to convince anyone about purchasing the disinfectant nowadays.

“Until the outbreak of EVD, it was difficult to market hand sanitiser to Nigerians. But that has changed with the level of awareness that came with the outbreak. They are coming to us; we are no more going to them. They are aware that to ignore us and our products is to die,” she said.

But despite the rise in the use of sanitizers and disinfectants, some people have devised ingenious ways of preventing the Ebola virus. People in this category simply avoid handshakes and other forms of body contacts as much as possible.

Ochei Aduba , a banker, is one of such persons. He uses his sanitizers regularly and has also stopped shaking hands with people. “I don’t shake people’s hands anymore and I make sure I use my sanitizers every time. Even when I have not touched anyone, I make sure I wash my hands and then apply my sanitizers. It is the best I can do for myself because prevention is always better than cure”, he said.

On his part, Tony Okoh, a civil servant said he protects himself from Ebola by making sure he sits in the front seat of any cab he boards within the city. “I don’t sit on the back seat where I may have body contact with other passengers. I make sure I sit only in front and sometimes I wait for a very long time at the park just to get a cab where the front seat if free.”

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