The Coalition Against COVID-19, a private sector-led initiative, has over the past few months been reaching out to the grassroots with the much needed intervention to fight the pandemic in Nigeria.
Since the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 was reported in Nigeria on February 27, 2020, the highest level of public health state of emergency operation was activated in the country by the federal and state governments, led by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).
Seven months after, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 56,177 from all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Out of the confirmed cases, 1,078 have died while 44, 088 have recovered.
While the government at all levels is making efforts to curtail the rapid spread of the pandemic in the country, most Nigerians in the rural and semi-urban communities have unfortunately, ignored prescribed safety protocols as they wrongly believe the disease affects only the wealthy and influential people in the society.
CACOVID Grassroot Drive
Seeing the enormous task before the government to stop the spread of the disease in the country, the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19
(CA-COVID) in June embarked on a grassroots awareness campaign to help forestall further spread of the disease in the suburbs and other rural communities in Lagos, Rivers, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory among other places.
CA-COVID just recently launched the second phase of the grassroots campaign to further reinforce the importance of wearing face masks, social distancing as well as strictly adhering to prescribed safety protocols. Added to the fresh campaign is the distribution of palliatives to the neediest people according to local government.
Zouera Youssoufou, the managing director and chief executive officer of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, who is leading the fresh charge speaks on the second phase of the campaign, the strategies employed to ensure success and the experiences and lessons of the first phase of the campaign.
Background of Grassroots Campaign
On this she said: "We are going into the different neighborhoods in Lagos and raising awareness about how to protect ourselves against COVID-19. As you may know, there is this misconception that the COVID-19 disease was really attacking rich people and wealthy people who have travelled.
"But the truth is that community transmission is already happening, so we need to wear our face masks properly, constantly sanitise and wash our hands and to also try to keep social distancing as much as possible. So part of this campaign is also distributing masks to people on the streets.
"With the vans that you see, our teams will be driving through the different neighborhoods handing out face masks and also talking to people on how to protect themselves from being infected with the COVID-19 disease.
"This is what we are doing in addition to the palliatives that we are going to start distributing food packs in the coming week across all the states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja."
Distribution Area of palliatives
On the area of distribution she said:Every single state in the federation, that is the 36 states and the FCT and we are targeting 10 million people, 1.7 million families. When we flag-off the distribution of the palliatives, we will start distributing in the LGAs down to the ward level and as you can imagine, it is hard to do this all at one time.
"The country is big and there has never been such a massive effort ever before now to distribute food to this many people in Nigeria. It requires a huge investment in logistics and human factors.
"Our aim is to reach the neediest, and so we are putting appropriate logistics in place to make sure we get the palliatives to the people who are the neediest that's why it is taking us this long to do this, so part of this campaign is to help raise awareness and also share masks and make sure we encourage people to wear them and to really protect themselves against this virus."
On this she said: "For us at CA-COVID, we define a family as a household in Nigeria consisting of six people. Our target is to reach 1.7million families of six people. Each family unit would get a 10kg bag of rice, they will get a five kg bag of either garri, semovita or maize flour depending on where they live, they get one carton of pasta, two cartons of noodles, five kilos of sugar and one kilo of salt, so that is what everybody will get."
Identifying the Neediest Families
"Every single state has communities where there is a concentration of vulnerable families, people who are most vulnerable. so the work is to Identify those families and to ensure that we are giving it to the families that have been identified because most of these people are disabled, widowed, people who live in really poor condition.
"We all know where they are, so if we look at, in Lagos, we are not going to be doing food distribution in Victoria Island or in Lekki as that is not going to make sense even if we said we are going to be doing it evenly across the country. We are not going to give the food palliatives to people who are wealthy as they are even the ones contributing to the effort.
"It is really about reaching down into the local government level and down to the wards and we are doing this in conjunction with the state because they are the ones who have the list and know where the people are. It is with them and the local government, making sure that they know because every local government chairman knows who the poor people are in their constituency," Zouera disclosed.
Partnership with the States
On partnership she said: "We are collaborating and working hand in hand with the states, so when we hand over to the states, it formally becomes a donation that CACOVID has given to the state. when it comes to doing the distribution, we have a monitoring and evaluation team making sure that the distribution gets down to the individual families, we have a communication team that follows that to make sure that it is done because the biggest worry that has come to us is that how do you know where it is going to end up if you are just giving?
"So we have to make sure we follow it all the way down to the family unit. We are not the ones doing the actual distribution but we have teams to be involved in the committees that are doing the distribution and we have a monitoring and evaluation team that follows all the distribution across every state in the country and so that is how we will be accountable to the CACOVID members who contributed all this money.
"We have to be able to tell them what we did with their money, where did they go, here is the picture, here is the film, here are the people who got it. we have to be able to tell them that."
"There are different ways to count success, are people aware? Can we see people wearing nose masks? Are we seeing a reduction in the rate of transmission? That is the ultimate test. Are people not getting coronavirus any more? Yes, people are still getting infected by the disease, it is not over yet, but if you notice, you will see that the numbers are either falling down or becoming steady. We can not afford to stay complacent because, when everybody relaxes then, we all will be finished.
"So far, we have recorded enormous gains with the grassroots awareness campaign though there is still more work to be done. Currently, when you go to different places, even here in Lagos, most people are not wearing their masks correctly. It is either they are wearing them around their neck or on their chin and we therefore realise that we have to further reinforce the campaign to bring it to top of mind that people can relate with and recall in their day to day activities. People that we expect to take their personal safety seriously have joined the bandwagon of naysayers so every available opportunity must be used to reinforce the message that "Coro is real and we must take our personal responsibility seriously to win the fight against COVID-19"."