Nigerian medical experts and other stakeholders have urged the federal government and indeed African leaders to be resilient in the fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and other challenges facing the region. They maintain that Africa has turned the grim outlook of the virus into one of unbelievable optimism, but they, however, warned that the virus would certainly go away and unfortunately, it would surely go away with some people
By Goddy Ikeh
IT was another celebration time for Realnews Magazine. On Thursday, November 19, 2020, the online magazine clocked eight. Like in every other year, Realnews in its traditional way gathered together an array of intellectuals, diplomats, professionals to discuss the scourge of coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic on Nigerians and indeed the global community. The pandemic has revealed the poor state of the country’s health sector and this year’s anniversary lecture has been chosen to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian economy and the people generally and how the federal government, through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, has been able to manage the pandemic far above the global speculation that Africa will experience millions of deaths from the pandemic. With the theme: “Managing the COVID-19 Global Pandemic in Africa: The Nigeria Experience” Maureen Chigbo, editor and publisher of Realnews, set the tone for the lecture with her welcome address. She noted that as the world continues to battle COVID-19, Africa has survived the predictions of the Western world. She said that Africa has disappointed the doomsday prophets.
Chigbo noted that against various predictions that Africa will witness millions of deaths from the virus, the fact is that as at November 10, the death toll for the continent is 45,647 from 1,894,367 reported cases with 1,598,594 recoveries. According to her, the statistics represented a mixed bag of sadness and relief. “Sadness because the death of one person is one too many. We cannot wish away the pain and loss of human lives, but at the same time, we can draw consolation from the fact that the death toll is not as predicted. The question then is how did Africa disappoint the doomsday prophets? Was it a fluke or as a result of steadfastness and painstaking efforts by African governments and health professionals? Our Guest lecturer will share his experiences on what transpired as the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce in Nigeria. He has been at the helm of policy initiatives to contain the spread of the deadly virus in Africa’s most populous nation.
“The anniversary lecture series is one way Realnews contributes to nation building and development by providing a forum for policy change-oriented discussions by professionals, scholars, technocrats and decision-makers on the way forward for our great nation and Africa in general. In 2014, we focused on elections; in 2015 the theme was on the economy, in 2016 the discussion was on security; 2017 was on the challenges of Leadership in Africa, while the lecture in 2018, dwelt on Africa’s political transitions and the economy.
“Last year, the focus was on economic narrative for West Africa beyond politics with the sub-theme: The end of oil: whither the Nigeria economy. Our choice of the 2020 topic: “Managing the COVID-19 Global Pandemic in Africa: The Nigeria Experience” is informed by the need to escalate and broaden the conversation on the health challenges facing our region with Nigeria as the regional economic powerhouse. This is against the background of the havoc unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic across the world in all sectors,” she said.
Chigbo appealed to other journalists to ensure that the message from here today is heard in Africa and beyond. “Of course, at Realnews we will ensure that we do our part by giving the widest publicity to this important lecture and the discussions. Realnews boasts of a crop of seasoned journalists, who believe strongly in the tenets and ethics of the profession. We are convinced that journalism as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, can contribute to building a free, fair and just society where fundamental human rights are respected and where citizens enjoy the freedom to pursue their interests without let or hindrance. Our motto at Realnews is: “For God and Humanity”.
In his opening remarks as the chairman of the Anniversary Lecture, Prof. Chris Bode, Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, urged the federal government and indeed African leaders to be resilient in the fight against COVID-19 and other challenges facing the region. For him, Africa has turned the grim outlook of the virus into one of unbelievable optimism.
According to Bode, Africa rose up as one in the fight against COVID-19. “A year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic started in China and soon spread to Europe and America. Predictions were dire for the developed world as we watched the wildfire spread of this disease and its unmitigated, rising morbidity and mortality figures.
“Even before it was declared a pandemic, the most optimistic outlook for Africa was apocalyptic. Our people rose as one and, in a concerted effort, the like of which we have not witnessed in 60 years, we turned the grim outlook into one of unbelievable optimism, now the object of several studies from other climes. We must harness this resilience and adapt it in confronting other challenges facing the region,” he said.
Bode commended the management of Realnews Magazine for inviting him to chair the annual lecture. “It is indeed an honour and a great pleasure for me to be invited as Chairman at the Realnews Magazine 8th Anniversary Lecture today in Lagos. The array of prominent, international figures, who have spoken at the past series of your eponymous lectures is a testimony to how well Realnews Magazine is discharging its mandate and contributing its quota towards “building a fair and just society where fundamental human rights are respected and citizens have the freedom to pursue their interests anywhere in the world without hindrance.”
In his keynote address, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation and chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said that despite the challenges of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Nigerian economy, the pandemic helped in the development of critical infrastructure needed to improve the health system of the country.
Mustapha noted that so far Nigeria has activated 69 molecular laboratories for COVID-19 testing across the country and that 37 new treatment centres and ICUs are being built across the country. According to Mustapha, who was represented by Sani Aliyu, national coordinator, PTF, through CACOVID, there has been an unprecedented commitment of resources to public health by the organised private sector.
“It is hoped that the linkages created with the private sector through COVID-19 will continue and help to strengthen other parts of the health system. COVID-19 has stimulated local production of face masks and shields, other PPEs, sanitizers, etc. This has helped many SMEs, and if scaled, will contribute to the recovery of the overall national economy,” he said.
Irrespective of the successes recorded in the fight against COVID-19, Mustapha said the country also faced challenges at the peak of the pandemic. He said inadequately equipped treatment centres, inadequate critical care equipment and supplies like beds, oxygen and ventilators etc affected the nation at the beginning of the pandemic. “Despite great efforts towards optimizing laboratory capacity, the sample collection/testing rate remain low in many states. Increase in financial hardships, crime and domestic violence during the lockdown, thus prolonged enforcement was unsustainable.
“Poor response from some State Governments, failure to provide adequate and complementary funds and the required leadership. Some denied/downplayed the existence of the disease in their states at the beginning. Large populations do not believe that COVID-19 is real. Some who believe that it is real have low risk perception resulting in poor adherence to interventions such as use of face masks and physical distancing.”
The SGF alluded to the fact that the pandemic affected many households in the country. Mustapha cited statistics from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS. According to him, out of 1,950 households interviewed by NBS, 85 percent reported increase in the prices of food items, with 51 percent reducing food consumption.
“Also, 42 percent of these households lost their jobs, 38 percent of households with school children report inability to engage the children in any form of learning, 79 percent reported decrease in household income and 26 percent of them could not afford access to medical services,” he said.
In his speech, Mele Kyari, group managing director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, said that in support of the federal government’s fight against COVID-19, the oil and gas sector donated N11 billion ($30 million) to strengthen the country’s collective resolve to contain the spread of the virus. He said the corporation galvanized companies operating in the sector to set up an industry-wide initiative to provide support in kind to the government.
Kyari said the support was hinged on three thematic initiatives with donations coming from across the oil and gas value chain. He said the three thematic areas included the provision of medical consumables, deployment of medical logistics and in-patient support system and delivery of medical infrastructure.
According to him, these donations were outside the regular corporate social responsibility initiative routinely deployed by the NNPC and its partners. He noted that all the commitments under the scheme were collected in kind through a clear, well established, and transparent governance framework. “For medical consumables, the intervention scaled up the provision of testing kits, medical protective equipment, face shields and laboratory scientific kits.
“For logistics and in-patient support system, ambulances, ventilators, respirators, and oxygen supply facilities were provided, while makeshift intensive care facilities, ICU beds and state-of-the-art diagnostic laboratories were also provided. At the onset of the pandemic only two health facilities (Infectious Disease Hospital IDH Yaba, Lagos and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada) were designated for its management.
“We also initiated the construction of twelve 200-bed infectious disease hospitals in the six geopolitical zones. Groundbreaking ceremonies were conducted for Katsina, Imo and Bayelsa states with the remaining states to be conducted soon. These projects will be fully funded by the NNPC and its partners and will manage cases of infectious diseases like COVID-19, and other infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Cholera etc,” he said.
In her contribution, Alera Roberts, department of community health and primary care, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, attributed the successes recorded in the fight against Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria to ‘Never-say-die” Nigerian spirit. She said the collective Nigerian spirit was responsible for both Ebola and COVID-19 being defeated in the country.
Speaking as a discussant at the anniversary lecture, Roberts said that the Nigerian spirit was not going to go away anytime soon. “Indeed the collective Nigerian spirit is what is responsible for both Ebola and COVID-19 being defeated in the country. It is a spirit that is not going to go away anytime soon as we have seen in recent events. And sometimes, when you try to squash it quite a bit, it rocks in areas we have not yet seen. But I’m grateful for the Nigerian spirit because it is that spirit that brought us here and given us the Realnews platform to speak to each other,” she said.
Roberts lamented that despite the abundance of human resources in the country, the health sector is facing brain drain. Apart from doctors that often travel abroad for greener pasture, Roberts said the nursing sector is also facing brain drain. “Mr. CMD, I don’t intend to spill the secret of the house, but I know what we are facing even in a health facility like the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, easily the best equipped, best run health facility Nigeria has of today. But we have a problem with human resources for health; we have a problem with retaining our nursing staff.
“Everybody is aware of the doctors’ brain drain. How many of us are really aware that there is a worse brain drain among the nurses, midwifes, pediatric nurses, theatre nurses, accident and emergency nurses, we don’t have enough, not even in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital,” she said.
– Nov. 21, 2020 @ 12:25 GMT |