Borno residents mark Eid-el-Fitr in defiance of COVID-19, calling it a scam

Children-and-youths,-out-to-celebrate-the-Eid-el-Fitr,-hover-around-the-gate-of-the-Maiduguri-City-Zoo
Children and youths, out to celebrate the Eid-el-Fitr, hover around the gate of the Maiduguri City Zoo

Borno State Report:
Muslims in Borno State trooped out en masse on Sunday May 24, 2020 to mark this year’s Eid-el-Fitr in large gatherings, despite the directive of the Presidential Task Force prohibiting massive gatherings, to prevent further spread of coronavirus in Nigeria. The coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the umbrella platform, CSO Situation Room, monitored prayer grounds in the State and observed that most people at the prayer grounds stood in close proximity with each other, and wore no face masks.It was also observed that majority of muslims flouted the directive of the National Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, recently issued by its Deputy Secretary General, Prof. Salisu Shehu, in a statement to the effect that, Muslims who did not want to observe Sallah prayers at home, should perform Eid at the area mosques to avoid unmanageable crowds. Many muslim faithful shunned the area mosques and converged in large numbers at the prayer grounds.

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CSO Situation Room deplores decreasing compliance to COVID-19 safety rules, as churches and mosques re-open in Borno

A-public-place-in-Borno-State-where-people-are-seen-violating-the-public-health-safety-rules-on-COVID-19.
A public place in Borno State where people are seen violating the public health safety rules on COVID-19.

Borno State Report:

Civil Society Organisations in Borno State under the platform of the CSO Situation Room, have bemoaned the alarming rate of decline in the level of compliance of the majority of inhabitants living in State, to the laid-down COVID-19 protocol put in place by the Government to halt the spread of the pandemic in the State. Following the easing of restrictions on movement by the State Government and the re-opening of religious houses in the State, there has been a change in the people’s attitude towards combating the virus which some stakeholders reckon could be as a result of the feeling of liberation that came with the lifting of the lockdown. Complacency towards the fight against COVID-19 has gradually become the order of the day as many consider a resumption of religious activities synonymous to a return to normalcy. Hence, many people are now seen in public places brazenly flouting all the stipulated health safety precautions. They hug, shake hands, wear no face masks, converge in groups of over 50 and do not practise personal hygiene.

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CSO COVID-19 Situation Room urges Borno government to modify lockdown and ensure prompt, equitable distribution of palliatives in all LGAs.

Picture-shows-Governor-Babagana-Zulum-distributing-palliatives-in-Jere-LGA-of-Borno-State

As the three-week lockdown imposed in Borno State by the State Governor, Babagana Zulum, slowly came to an end on Wednesday May 13, 2020, many Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the State lamented the failure of the State Government to equitably distribute palliatives in all IDP camps across the State. There has been a public outcry in some Local Government Areas by IDPs who have not benefitted from the distribution of palliatives in the State.

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Borno State: IDPs Are Most Vulnerable To COVID-19

Borno-State-IDPs-Are-Most-Vulnerable-To-COVID-19
Displaced people in Borno IDP camps cannot practice social distancing

By Botti Isaac

Since Nigeria recorded its first COVID-19 index case on February 27, 2020, in Lagos, the virus has spread to other parts of the country. Borno State recorded its first corona virus-related death on Sunday, April 19 when a retired anaesthetic nurse working with one of the INGOswas brought from a community (Pulka) in GwozaLocal Government Areas to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospitals and was confirmed to have died from COVID-19 complications. Since then, the number of infected persons in the State has increased exponentially, with a second death in April. In response, the Borno State Government embarked on stringent measures which included 14 days of total lockdown, border closure, restriction of religion and social gatherings, closures of markets and imposing general movement restriction across the state. Beyond the preventive measures, the state government has also set up a panel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outbreak in the state and has provided needed support through situation monitoring and implementation of government palliatives to ease the impact of the lockdown order its citizens. There is no doubt that these measures are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable populace. The spread of the virus in a place like Borno will not only aggravate an already bad situation of the people in the region but jeopardize all efforts at recovery from the endemic crises plaguing the region.

Borno State currently holds 70% of the 1.7 million displaced population in the northeast, most of whom live in displaced communities such as the formal camps and informal camps. The recent COVID-19 outbreak in Borno is from community transmission. An investigation into the death of the index case shows that the patient had no travel history to any other state or outside the country in recent times. Serious measures must be sustained to prevent a more severe outbreak in Borno, which would have a devastating impact in this already fragile state.

Limited access to medical and healthcare by members of communities, including IDPs, is one of the major challenges confronting people of Borno State, which already has an overburdened healthcare system that still struggles with malaria, maternal health challenges and other diseases. Years of violence by Boko Haram insurgents that attacked most communities in Borno have seen more than half of the healthcare facilities in the state destroyed, thereby subjecting people of the communities to hardship and misery.

Another factor that would militate against containing the spread of COVID-19 in IDP communities is the fact that most of the IDPs camps and communities in Maiduguri are overcrowded with several persons living together in small makeshift tents. Issues of personal hygiene is also a challenge as most IDP camps lack water and other supplies such as soap and disinfectants. So, if the virus breaks out in the IDP camps, it will be complicated to implement any of the prescribed global preventive measures such as social distancing, maintaining regular personal hygiene (regular hand wash) and staying at home.

It is also crucial to address the potential economic implication of the spread of COVID-19 on IDPs. Currently, the capacity of many of the IDP camps in Born State is overstretched with the daily influx of victims of violence into the state and settling in the various camps, thereby placing more burden on the limited resources to care for their needs. So the outbreak of COVID-19 in the state would further aggravate the livelihood situation and places more burden on the state’s meagre resources.

An outbreak of COVID-19 in Borno would impact women and girls who are already the most affected victims of insurgency and the humanitarian crisis in the region. It is important to reiterate that women and girls constituted 80% of those affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also currently affecting the humanitarian work going on in the State. As a result of the lockdown order and the restriction on interstate movement, the pace of humanitarian work is significantly impacted. Most of the humanitarian actors including Social Action working in the state are faced with a rare situation of not being able to deliver on their already planned interventions despite the state government classifying humanitarian workers as essential workers.

However, rather than allowing the outbreak of COVID-19 to stall its ongoing work totally, Social Action in the last few weeks has developed and engaged in strategic programs that will help provide the needed support for members of the displaced communities to prevent and mitigate both the health and economic impact of COVID-19. Social Action is supporting the state’s civil society to address the need for public enlightenment and monitoring of the situation to provide a real-time view on responses to the humanitarian and health needs of the vulnerable populace. We are currently supporting groups of monitors to observe community responses to identify gaps and lapses in COVID-19 responses and ensure that all gaps are bridged by stakeholders, as much as is possible.

Botti Isaac is a Programmes Officer of Social Action