By Dr. Dons Eze
Many challenges have come to the fore with regard to the current fight against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria. Among these are:
* Water and Sanitation
People are told to constantly wash their hands in order not to contract coronavirus. But there is no water anywhere with which to wash the hands.
In Enugu metropolis, for instance, over ninety percent of the residents do not have access to clean water. They only depend on hand dung wells, and water supplied by water truck vendors, the source of which they do not know. The same scenario could be applicable in most states across the country.
These governments should therefore prioritise the provision of portable water to the citizenry, not only because water is life and everybody needs it, but also because water is very necessary in the fight against all forms of communicable diseases, including coronavirus.
*Hand Sanitizers and Face Masks:
Majority of Nigerians do not have access to hand sanitizers and face masks. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the cost of these items has skyrocketed, and many people who could not afford them due to their high costs, have been exposing themselves to the pandemic. The government should therefore hasten to make these items available, if really they are serious in fighting coronavirus.
Many people are asking what happened to the items donated by Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation for fighting coronavirus, and what government is doing with the billions of naira said to be donated by various individuals and groups, to fight coronavirus? We hope that some people somewhere are not aiming at helping themselves with these resources, while their fellow countrymen face the danger of contracting coronavirus.
* Social Distancing
Schools, churches, markets, private and public offices, etc., have closed, and people told to stay at home and to maintain social distance, so as not to contract coronavirus.
But what of places where people crowd themselves up to six and eight in only one room, as is the case in most of our urban towns? How do the people there maintain social distancing? If any of them happens to contract coronavirus, it surely will spread like wild fire around the vicinity, and to many parts of the country.
Unfortunately, our governments hardly think of providing cheap and affordable houses for those in the low income bracket. They only build expansive mansions for people of their kind, while the poor and the less privileged are left to make their abode in dungeons and under the bridge.
* Access to COVID-19 Testing Centres and Medical Facilities
Many people who were sick and who were suspected to have contracted COVID-19, did not have access to testing centres, to confirm their status. This had put many lives in danger, while fear and uncertainty gripped both their relations and those very close to them.
Also, some hospitals were said to have rejected people who were seriously ill, taking them to have contracted coronavirus. This had brought untold hardships and frustration to a whole lot of people.
Government should therefore investigate these allegations with a view to addressing them promptly.
* High Cost of Food and Agro Products
Since the advent of coronavirus and stay at home, prices of essential food commodities and agro products have soared to high heavens. Specifically, prices of garri, rice, beans, yams, meat, fish, and even sachet water, have risen astronomically, beyond the reach of ordinary people. There is currently the fear that much more people may die in Nigeria from hunger and starvation, than from coronavirus itself.
Sadly, the government is not doing much to alleviate the suffering of the poor masses by way of providing them with incentives. We only hear about palliatives being provided to millions of people across the country, on radio and television, but hardly see them in real life.
* A Boring Stay At Home
While Nigerians are staying at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it proves to be boring and frustrating: no money, and even if there is money, no place to buy essential food items. Also, there is no electricity to power electronic gadgets that would keep the people busy, while staying at home.
Government should therefore rise to the challenge to make the necessity of staying at home less boring and frustrating, for it not to be seen as an indirect imprisonment.
* Cultural Conflict
We have severally been embarrassed when we try to shake hands with a relation or a friend, and he withdraws his hand, because he does not want to contract coronavirus. In other words, we are trying to come to terms with the issue of no handshake and no hugging. You simply wave.
Similarly, we no longer pay interpersonal visits, to felicitate, to celebrate, to mourn, or to console a friend or a neighbour. It is everybody on his own, self-isolation. Stay alone, celebrate alone, mourn alone, and let the bereaved bury the dead. Nobody wants to contract coronavirus, or to die.
The resultant outcome is the gradual erosion of our traditional value system, or the destruction of the bond of filial relationship that usually exists among African individuals. Dr. Dons Eze.