COVID-19: System failures affecting lockdown

• As 60 million Nigerians lack clean water, live in slums, 90 million in extreme poverty

The Coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the world amidst concerted efforts to contain it. In Nigeria, efforts have been made to contain its spread, among which are, social distancing and the campaign to wash hands with running water and soap. People were advised to stockpile food items before the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states took effect.

But the effectiveness of these measures and the sustainability of the lockdown exacerbated by multisectoral failures have been subjects of heated debates.

90 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty

In October 2019, Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mr Sadiya Farouq said some 90 million Nigerians, more than 50 per cent of the country’s population live in abject poverty. This means that they live from hand to mouth. Most of them rely on their everyday job to eat. Recently the federal government asked Nigerians to stock up food items in preparation for the lockdown that has taken place, leaving questions as to what becomes of Nigerians with reliance on everyday job like the Bricklayers, Okada riders and petty traders.

This group of Nigerians in the informal sector, Professor Adeola Adenikinju, Director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan, says are the worst hit by the lockdown and stay at home order.

“A lot of Nigerians, especially in the informal sector are very poor, and they have to work every day to find what to eat and it is very important for the government to take cognisance of that. The implementation of the palliative measures the government has brought in is a major challenge. Over time, we have not built the database that would make Nigerians identify those who are poor.

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“We were caught napping. We did not have fiscal buffers. Nigeria was unprepared. We have to diversify our economy from oil. The other aspects of the economy are weak and cannot provide any buffer when oil is in trouble. We also have to improve our healthcare system and build a database to know people in various income groups”, he advised.

Nnamdi Obasi, Senior Adviser (Nigeria), International Crisis Group argues that the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria may not be as effective as desired. The high rate of poverty, he said, as well as other systemic issues will limit its success. “Nigeria’s COVID-19 fight is challenged by serious deficits in all sectors: ‘stock up’, but 90 million Nigerians live from hand to mouth”, he said.

For Professor Emmanuel Ofoezie, Director, Institute of Ecology and Environmental Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, discomfort and friction are some of the effects on people staying together in overcrowded rooms and slums. Also, there is a high risk of contagion and community spread in such environments, hence the need for people to stay at home and endure the discomfort.

Prof Ofoezie told Nigerian Tribune that enduring the discomfort at home is cheaper than contracting it outside and spreading it to vulnerable households.

60 million Nigerians lack access to clean water amidst clamour for hand washing

In the heart of the directive to always wash hands with running water and soap for about 20 seconds is access to clean water. This access, the World Bank says, is a luxury many Nigerians cannot afford. It says some 60 million people continue to live without access to clean water, while 130 million people do not meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) standards for sanitation. What this shows is that 33 per cent of the population or 3 out of every 10 persons in Nigeria do not have access to clean water.

Temple Oraeki, Nigeria Country Director, Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation, while speaking to Nigerian Tribune, said the issue of water supply should be urgently attended to as communities and slums without access to water, stand a high risk of not being able to contain the virus when it hits them.

“Lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities in Nigeria especially in rural, underserved communities have had ripple effects on the health, economy and wellbeing of the individuals and families in these communities over a prolonged period of time.”

He further informed that “though cities and urban slums across Nigeria are not exempted from the water poverty, rural dwellers will bear the most effects of the inadequacy of clean water supply during this pandemic. If people do not have easy access to water at homes, enforcing shelter-in-place order would be homicidal and implementing social distancing will be almost impracticable”.

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