APRIL, THE MONTH COMMITTED TO PUSHING FOR IMMUNIZATION IRRESPECTIVE OF COVID-19 THREAT
Happy new month! The Month of April turned out unpredictable. There were a lot of changes in our way of life. First, the federal government imposed a sit-at-home order on, Abuja (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states; eventually other states including Delta state (where we have an ongoing project) also implemented a lockdown. This challenging situation left us with no other option but to use other creative means to navigate our way through, in order to contribute our quota to the society.
During the course of the lockdown imposed in various states to curb the spread of Covid-19; more cases were confirmed and more deaths recorded. Our dear Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria, Mallam Abba Kyari got infected and we lost him to the cold hands of Covid-19. Covid -19 is real and has claimed the lives of over 90 persons in Nigeria so far. It is still spreading fast and our best defense continues to be to adhere strictly to the precautionary measures of: frequent hand washing, maintaining social distance, coughing or sneezing into flexed elbow. The use of face mask is now universally approved in Nigeria for use when in an unavoidably crowded area or in the office. Face masks can be improvised, by using handkerchiefs or Ankara cloth, as long as it covers your nose, mouth and chin. It is amazing how Nigerians have shown a lot of creativity in the improvision of face masks.
We believe that if these precautionary measures are adhered to we will overcome Covid-19 soon. If you feel unwell and you suspect Covid-19, please call NCDC hotlines, and you will be attended to. There are more recovery cases than death cases, so hope is not lost. In light of this, VNDC is a member of the Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) Covid – 19 Response Team, serving in the Community Engagement, Media and Situation room sub committee. One of our tasks was to monitor compliance level of the precautionary measures in the course of delivering routine immunization (RI) services in the FCT.
We visited RI facility in Nyanya General Hospital and Wuse General Hospital at the beginning of the month. The report was disheartening as the Primary Health Care (PHC) workers had limited Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) to carry out their work without exposing themselves or the mothers and their children to Covid-19. We call on the government to intensify support to PHC workers by providing sufficient PPEs to them. Hopefully, by the time of the next round of monitoring, a lot of improvement will be recorded.
Working from home
Vaccine Network for Disease Control obliged to the sit-at-home order by instructing all her staff to work from home; however we remained connected through zoom and other office software. Although working from home, we:
Domesticated the WHO precautionary guidelines. Created awareness on our social media platforms on how to: create buckets with taps for washing of hands, cough properly and maintain social distancing even in public places.
Our team in Delta and Imo states helped to distribute hand washing soaps to over 100 households to encourage regular hand wash. In the course of distribution, we enlightened them on the presence of Covid-19 in the country and demonstrated Social Distancing and hand washing to them.
Our team utilized Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to create awareness on the importance of immunization, and to enlighten the public on the roles the government and individuals are playing to ensure immunization takes place despite the pandemic. We achieved this through;
Social media awareness Twitter chat with notable speakers like; The Acting Executive Secretary, FCT Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Iwot Ndaeyo; the Coordinator, African Health Budget Network , Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba and the Country Director, John Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center, Dr. Chizoba Barbara Wonodi chatted with us on the topic: How prepared are health workers and government at all levels in rendering PHC and immunization services during Covid-19 pandemic.
It was refreshing to know that RI activities would continue and the necessary precautionary measures are in place at the designated RI facilities. And the fact that the FCT Primary Health Care Board had designed and circulated guidelines for delivering RI services at this time. And had implemented the training and monitoring of PHC workers on compliance to the safety guidelines provided. Other measures like provision of adequate number of PPE and health workers had been considered.
Challenges of RI activities
In an article titled “pride – of-place” of routine immunization written by the CEO of Vaccine Network for Disease Control; Mrs. Chika Offor, the challenges faced in Routine Immunization were highlighted in the face of the lockdown due to the current pandemic. Vaccines save lives and money if only those that need these essential vaccines have access to them. Read more: pride of place of routine immunization.
Helping Communities During Lockdown
The impact of Covid-19 outbreak is in global proportions. There was/is therefore need for private organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and philanthropists to support the government in providing palliatives to the indigents in the communities. Young Business and Professional Women (YBPW) collaborated with Vaccine Network for Disease Control in her ‘Support a Community Initiative’ which sought to provide palliatives in cash or in kind to poor households within FCT, Imo and Delta states, Nigeria. The first phase was done in four communities within FCT, Abuja; Gosa, Iddo, Waru, and Damangaza. There are still three more communities to be covered within the FCT. The sum of N20, 000 was donated by the Young Business and Professional Women (YBPW) on the 28th of April, and it was utilized as cash transfers to beneficiaries in Gosa community. The sum was transferred into the account of the organization’s community volunteer called Baba Daniel, who then handed over the sum of three thousand naira each, to seven beneficiaries on the 4th of May, 2019.
In Iddo, on Apiril 24th, the Social Development Secretariat through Association of Orphans and Vulnerable Children NGOs in Nigeria (AONN) partnered with us to distribute palliative to targeted beneficiaries. Being a community-based organization (CBO) supporting the FCT government to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to ensure that those living with HIV/AIDS have significantly suppressed viral load, we moved swiftly on the 25th of April, to distribute these items to 25 households in Iddo community, AMAC, Abuja.
We thank our partners for their support. Let us do more in May. Follow us Twitter @VaccineNet_NG to read up more responses to the questions asked.