Amidst the rising cases of coronavirus disease in the country and the shocking nonchalance of many Nigerians towards the pandemic, the Civil Societies Network in Bayelsa State has resolved to ensure public discourse about the pandemic is kept on the front burner, by calling on traditional rulers, youth leaders, religious overseers and other community leaders to use their influence in expanding the public outreach campaigns on COVID-19. The Civil Societies, operating under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room, find it ironical and bothersome that, the more the number of confirmed cases increases in the State, the lesser the public interest in curbing further spread of the virus. The reverse, ought to be the case. With the spike in the number of infected persons within and around Bayelsa, the CSO Situation Room has begun reaching out to community leaders in the State, requesting them to play the symbolic role of closing the gaps in communication with the people, by raising their voices and calling for action against the spread of the deadly virus in the State.
Handbills with information on curbing the spread of COVID-19, were distributed to residents of communities visited in Bayelsa State by the CSO Situation Room
In the past week, the CSO team embarked on an aggressive awareness campaign at Yenagoa and Sagbama Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State. Several communities in those areas were visited. The CSO team also paid visits to traditional and religious leaders, as well as youth groups within Bayelsa State, urging them to commit themselves to a genuine fight against the pandemic, devoid of political, ethnic or religious intolerance. Against the backdrop of complaints made by some community folks about perceived bias and favouritism in the sharing of palliatives across the State, the CSO team informed the community leaders that it is imperative for leaders to deal equitably with the people in order to successfully rally them for action against the virus that has become a common enemy. The community leaders were urged to leverage on their close relationship with community members at the grassroots and ensure the compliance of the people with the COVID-19 rules on public safety.
The CSO members also spoke to the indigenes of these communities about the need to stay vigilant and admonished them to always practise public safety guidelines such as hand-washing, use of face masks and sanitisers, and social distancing. The community folks were reminded that, though Bayelsa State has recorded 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of June 10, 2020, its neighbouring States – Rivers and Delta, have on record, multiple times the number of confirmed cases in Bayelsa State. Hence, Bayelsa could witness an increase in the infection rate in the State within the coming days, due to community transmission in the region, if the government and the people do not work together to stop the spread of the virus in the State. Community indigenes were further enjoined to abstain from self-medication and report suspected cases of COVID-19 to the nearest medical facility or contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) through the agency’s toll-free hotlines. Over 500 handbills containing information about the coronavirus disease, have so far been distributed to people within the respective communities visited, in the course of the sensitisation.