More than 12 000 doctors, pharmacists, medical students and other health workers have offered their expertise and extra time to help curb the spread of the virus in Africa’s most populous country. Nigeria detected COVID-19 in late February 2020, becoming the first to do so in sub-Saharan Africa.
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Of these volunteers, a lot of women have formed a huge chunk of the quorum. In celebration of International Women’s day, This article celebrates five Nigerian women who have contributed to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Hauwa Ibrahim, Dr Ola Nene Okike, and Dr Ola Brown are health practitioners. Ayadamola Owoseye and Bukola Afeni are media practitioners.
We are bringing to your notice women who have had relatively no buzz in the media space but have continued to contribute immensely in the combat against COVID-19.
- Hauwa Ibrahim
Hauwa Ibrahim is unsure when she will see her family again. Months ago, the 29-year-old nurse volunteered to work at a COVID-19 treatment centre in Nigeria’s capital Abuja. Worried she might put her family at risk of catching the virus, she opted to stay at the centre. Like her, many health workers lending a hand to the country’s battle against the pandemic have forgone time with family.
Working up to 12 hours a day when it gets busy, Ms Ibrahim, who opted to volunteer fulltime when Asokoro hospital in Abuja was turned into a COVID-19 treatment centre, says few are willing to be in the frontlines of the pandemic response, but “if someone must be there, then I should be.”
“Sometimes one has to inconvenience themselves to make things right. I am happy with what I am doing. I have no regrets,”
says Ms Ibrahim.
“I haven’t seen any of my family members for the past two months. But that’s the price you pay for trying to make a difference.”
- Temie Giwa Tubosun
Temie Giwa Tubosun, founder of LifeBank was and still is instrumental in the fight to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her organisation, LifeBank, initiated a COVID-19 drive through testing to help improve coronavirus testing in Nigeria.
LifeBank, in partnership with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), and committed organizations like the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), have worked so hard increase the number of people tested for the COVID-19 virus in Nigeria, especially Lagos State.
- Dr Ola Brown
“It [the sample collection booth] reduces to zero the number of infections on the people conducting the tests. Secondly, it also saves a lot of time compared [with] the people testing having to go to people’s houses to do the tests and thirdly, it saves money because people [are] not having to change their PPE [personal protective equipment]” frequently,
Thus, she, through her organisation, Flying Doctors, created mobile booths where people could go get tested. The booths separate the sample collectors from the people being tested so as to minimise unnecessary contacts.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), though it differs in various states, between 80 and 100 samples are collected per booth every day. This innovation has boosted COVID-19 testing in Nigeria however little way it has. Booths were created in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Rivers and Zamfara states.
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- Ayodamola Owoseye
At the onset of the pandemic misinformation and rumours were rife in Nigeria. Outlandish claims ranged from COVID-19 causes such as 5G wireless technology to lemon tea as a viable therapy. Rumours circulating on WhatsApp that the disease was a ruse by some to spread fear and divert funds meant to fight the virus was especially hard to debunk.
Ayodamola Owoseye, who is a Communications Assistant at WHO Nigeria and a reporter with Premium Times newspaper was amongst the women resolute to spread the right narrative and facts using the media.
Early in the outbreak, it was difficult to find experts to turn to, Owoseye says, as most researchers had little understanding of the virus. Yet, there were volumes of unverified information online. Some people turned away from her reports altogether, she remembers
“People became scared and stopped reading the news. They claimed it was affecting them psychologically.”
However, she remained steadfast in debunking fake news and putting out the right information about the virus to help people get informed and safe.
To help counter misinformation, the World Health Organization (WHO) office in Nigeria has trained national journalists, focusing on the principles of public health reporting that include information accuracy, data sourcing and verification. The training also aimed to help change people’s behaviour in the face of COVID-19.
The Organization has supported the work of more than 100 reporters across Nigeria since March to understand and relay technical terms and educate the public about the pandemic. WHO also provides real-time information on COVID-19 response and prevention. In Abuja alone, 50 journalists have been trained and another 100 in the north-east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
- Bukola Afeni
Nigerian newsrooms are using different approaches to fight misinformation. Some directly address the rumours by producing lists of fake information along with write-ups debunking them. Others have fact-checking teams for in-depth verification.
Journalists like Bukola Afeni who is a reporter with Newsday, an online publication, has sought to fight against the declining number of in-depth reporting on the pandemic. She lamented,
“We journalists should keep reporting about COVID-19 so that people will be aware that it’s not yet time to celebrate,”
It is because of a journalist with such intent that arms such as Dubawa, the fact-checking arm of Premium Times, a major Nigerian newspaper exist. At Dubawa, reporters have been publishing reports to counter rumours and address people’s worries on COVID-19, using creative tools like graphics and videos. Dubawa is the first such initiative in the country and works to fight false news and deter propagators of misleading information.
WHO continues to collaborate with the media to debunk false information. Staff from the Organization also participate in national radio and television programmes to speak about the pandemic.
Kudos to these women and many others that are contributing to the fight against the coronavirus to date. Do you know any other woman that is a key player in this fight? Please let us know.
Happy international women’s day!
Featured Image Source: Medium
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