COVID-19: Delta CSO Situation Room condemns closure of hospitals; recommends regular decontamination

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Empty hospital ward

DELTA STATE REPORT


The coalition of Civil Society groups in Delta State, under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room, hereby calls on the Delta State Government to reverse the closure of some hospitals across the State, over the suspicion that some persons suspected to be COVID-19 patients were harboured in those hospitals. The CSO Situation Room also calls on Local Government Councils in the State, to open up all hospitals that have been sealed off by the Councils for similar reasons, bordering on the suspected exposure of the hospitals and their staff to the coronavirus disease.

Within the last three weeks, several hospitals were shut down in the State for providing medical attention to suspected COVID-19 cases. The Ughelli North LGA Council shut down a primary healthcare centre indefinitely, following reports that there were suspected cases of COVID-19 at the hospital. The Council in a statement dated June 22, warned that Ughelli North LGA has recorded a spike in the number of confirmed cases in the LGA. Hence, all healthcare centres in the LGA were warned to desist from treating suspected COVID-19 cases or stand the risk of being sealed off. Similarly, the Delta State Ministry of Health sealed off the building of a private hospital in Sapele, where two ill persons suspected to be COVID-19 patients were harboured. The hospital was reportedly sealed off because it lacked the capacity to treat suspected COVID-19 patients who rightly, should have been referred to any of the 11 Isolation centres across the State. For the same reason, some units of the Ughelli Central Hospital have been shut down indefinitely by the government.

However, despite the need to deploy all lawful means necessary to curb the hike in the number of confirmed cases in the State which currently stands at 912 as of June 28, 2020, the government must not fail to assess holistically, the public health risks posed by the closure of hospitals at a time when the State is faced with a public health emergency. While it is deemed appropriate to shut down places that provide non-essential services such as hotels, restaurants, etc, when they violate the State’s guidelines on the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, the same cannot be said of places that render essential services to the people, such as hospitals. Notwithstanding the pervasive nature of the novel coronavirus in the State, there are several other patients who are in need of medical attention for various ailments, other than the coronavirus disease. It behoves on the government to consider the public interest of the majority of the people in the State and adopt short- and long-term strategies in the fight against the pandemic, for the public good.

The CSO Situation Room, while in the course of conducting impact-assessment tours across the State, received reports that several lives have been lost in Ughelli, Warri, Effurun, and other parts of the State, due to sudden ailments and an inability to access adequate medical attention. It has also been reported that some hospitals are purportedly refusing to attend to patients who complain of experiencing ailments similar to COVID-19 symptoms. Out of fear that they may mistakenly admit a COVID-19 patient which will incur the wrath of the government, and to avoid a situation where their hospitals are shut down indefinitely by the government, these hospitals now reject patients who complain of experiencing diarrhoea, headache, body pains and cough. But, most of these symptoms of COVID-19 also manifest in persons diagnosed of other ailments and who may not be infected with the coronavirus. Where then, does the government want such persons to go to for treatment, when several hospitals are being locked up and the health centres that are still operating, will not admit them, in order to avoid a closure by the government?

The CSO Situation Room therefore calls on the government to rescind the closure of the affected hospitals and ensure they are disinfected and made accessible to the public. Hospital premises and facilities should be thoroughly decontaminated very often, to prevent the spread of infections within the hospital, whilst being allowed to operate fully. All medical and non-medical personnel of the affected hospitals, should be made to undergo a COVID-19 test to ascertain their status. If any is found to be positive, such should be quarantined at the State’s Isolation Centre, while those not infected, should be given adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and allowed to resume work at their respective hospitals. There are several persons in the State who will always need health services for diverse medical conditions and they must not be denied access to healthcare facilities. Pregnant women, infant children and elderly people often have scheduled visits made routinely to the hospitals for medicare.  There could also be cases of sudden ailments affecting any person, which could warrant urgent medical attention at the nearest health facility. Hence, shutting down hospitals amidst a raging COVID-19 pandemic, is tantamount to waging a war against the people of the State, rather than fighting the pandemic.

Displaced by Insurgency, Re-displaced by Flood; IDPs in Borno State cry out for help

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The devastating tragedy of the flood crisis at Shuwari 5 IDP camp

BORNO STATE REPORT

Twice dislodged, both geographically, several inhabitants of Borno IDP camps are presently fleeing a threat to their lives, posed by the intense rainstorms and ravaging flood. Following the heavy downpour of rain witnessed within the last two weeks, hundreds of tents at various IDP encampments were submerged in flood water for several days. This could mark the beginning of the anticipated peak of the rainy season, this year. The flood water no more recedes completely, before the next rainstorm occurs, thus leaving vast areas of the IDP camps perpetually engulfed in floodwater. From Shuwari 5 IDP camp in Dikwa LGA to Mashedumami Extension 2 camp in Konduga LGA, and many other IDP camps in the State, the flood situation has been extremely disturbing to the displaced persons, many of whom are crying out to the Federal and State Governments for urgent aid.

At the Shuwari 5 IDP camp in Dikwa LGA, most of the makeshift tents have been swamped, with valuable properties damaged beyond repair. Members of the Civil Societies Network, operating under the aegis of the CSO Situation Room, who visited the camp, observed that the daily rainfall volume had overwhelmed the drainage capacity of the local area, leaving several tents submerged in the flood for several days. The overall environment was in an uninhabitable state, as many displaced persons had to abandon their tents, to wait helplessly in the open, till the waters recede. Most of the people seen at the camp, looked deeply saddened by the flood disaster, as they recounted the loss of their personal belongings. Life is yet to return to normal at the camp. The waters are not receding fast enough, and the rains are bound to continue in relative proportions for a couple of months, before the end of the year.

There are environmental concerns as to the state of the camp and the harsh living conditions which the inhabitants, particularly the children, are subjected to. The flood erosion washes away a lot of sand, leaving many portions of the ground too slippery for children and adults alike, to move across without stumbling and sustaining injuries. There are also health concerns about the transmission of water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases at the IDP communities which have become more vulnerable with a high flood-risk exposure. Coupled with the dread of a widespread transmission of the coronavirus disease at the IDP camps, is the fear of contracting other non-viral diseases through contaminated floodwater. Flood often causes improperly disposed human wastes and other decomposing substances at refuse dump sites, to wash away, into areas inhabited by humans. When the flood water dries up, these sediments could remain on the ground and cause diseases to people, especially children who love to play outdoors. The polluted flood water may also find its way into the pipes that convey the water which the people drink and use for bathing, washing, etc. Cholera, diarrhoea and respiratory infections are common diseases that are endemic in IDP camps and many communities in Borno State, during the peak of the rainy season.

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Many IDPs wait helplessly in the open, hoping to return to their tents whenever the flood recedes

The rains have had a huge impact on the people in the camp. Alongside the loss of shelter, they have lost the little comfort they may have had. Whenever it rains, many of them are seen clustering together under a tree within the camp where they can find protection from the rain. This has become the very pathetic plight of many IDPs, most of whom are women, children and the elderly. Some of them who spoke to the CSO team, lamented the loss of foodstuffs and medical drugs, which they said were being stored in their tents for future consumption. The flood took them unawares and they barely had enough time to salvage any item of value, before their entire tents were overtaken by the floodwater. They could only flee from the tents with their children, to save their lives, they said. The imminent danger posed by excessive flooding, such as drowning and bodily harm, as well as the shortage in food, water and electricity supply resulting from the frequent damage to infrastructure caused by the rainstorm, makes the situation a perfect nightmare for the affected IDPs.

The CSO Situation Room advocates very strongly for urgent assistance to be provided to the people living in the flood-prone Shuwari 5 IDP camp and other IDP camps that have been affected by the rains. These people urgently need alternative shelter in areas that are not susceptible to flood. They also are in dire need of a fresh supply of food and cooking materials, as well as potable water, new clothings, mattresses, bedsheets, blankets and other essential household needs. Considering that their tents may have been structurally damaged by the floods, the Borno state Government and the Federal Ministry of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs should work expeditiously in ensuring that lives are not lost to the flood tragedy. In addition, there is the need for embankments to be erected around the camps to prevent an inflow of floodwater from the neighbouring streets, into the camps. This should be accompanied with the construction of flood ways to adequately channel the flood and divert it from areas inhabited by residents of the State. As soon as the flood is appropriately diverted, the government must ensure a timely assessment of the affected tents is conducted to ascertain how badly damaged they may be. Tents having badly-damaged internal and external fitting, should be promptly reconstructed. There ought to be sufficient plans put in place as preventive action for the potential risk of flood across the state.

Social Action demands swift, bold action against Rape in Rivers State

Stop Sexual Violence

RIVERS STATE REPORT

The unusual rise in the incidence of rape and attempted rape in Rivers State, this year, has become a daunting challenge, in the face of the rampant nature in which the crime is being perpetrated and the seeming helplessness of the society to nip the problem in the bud. Rape is an act of sexual violence which simply put, entails a non-consensual sexual intercourse. Where a minor (a person below 18 years of age) is involved, it is deemed to be rape, whether or not consent was obtained. The Social Development Integrated Centre, also known as Social Action, working in collaboration with the Civil Rights Council (CRC) in monitoring the human rights violations perpetrated within the State, have in recent times, been inundated with reports from residents about rape incidents that occurred in their neighbourhoods. Over 40 cases of alleged sexual abuse have been reported since May, 2020 till date, of which the majority are cases of rape. Of this lot, is the recent case involving a 9 year-old girl who was allegedly raped by her neighbour, a 30 year-old man at Ikwerre LGA, on the 13th of June. Earlier reported, was a similar case of a 10 year old girl in Diobu, Port Harcourt LGA who was alleged to have been serially raped by her neighbour on May 22nd. In both isolated cases, as well as in many other reported cases, it was learnt that the alleged rapist was well known to the victim, and the family of the victim attempted to cover up the matter by promoting a culture of silence. Although this trend does not apply in all cases, 80 percent of rape cases reported within the period under review, reveal that the culture of silence enables the perpetrator, a well-known person to the victim, to escape justice with the tacit support of the victim’s family.

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COVID-19: Social Action condemns illegal extortion of money from food transporters, leading to rise in food prices

The government owes it to the masses to reduce food prices and ease the economic hardship
The government owes it to the masses to reduce food prices and ease the economic hardship

RIVERS STATE REPORT

“We, the food suppliers, are essential service providers, because food is an essential commodity for human survival. But, the security agents at roadblocks and checkpoints along the highways, insist on collecting money from us, before allowing us to proceed into Rivers State. There are so many roadblocks now because of COVID-19 and the ban on inter-State movements. At each point, these security agents collect between 3,000 Naira and 5,000 Naira.”

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Vulnerable households worst-hit by COVID-19, in dire need of FG’s Social Investment Programme

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Vulnerable families have been impoverished and devastated by the harrowing experiences brought upon them by the scourge

Written by Mercy Christopher

Given the importance of a conscious implementation, succeeded by a meaningful outcome, to the sustainability of any Intervention programme, the Federal Government’s plan to transmute its National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) into a new Integrated National Social Investment Programme (I-NSIP), may not amount to much beyond the rhetorics, if the government fails to focalise the programme on the most vulnerable Nigerians in the present COVID-19 era. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastation it has brought upon Nigerians, could invariably mark a defining moment for the NSIP. The pandemic has negatively affected the Nigerian economy, causing an unprecedented inflation across the country which has sunk a lot of indigent Nigerians, deeper into poverty. These vulnerable ones who have been impoverished and devastated by the harrowing experiences brought upon them by the scourge, are presently the symbol of acute poverty, in the year 2020. They are currently in serious need of the government’s interventionism, to enable them find their bearings in the new COVID-19 era. Most of these people are the bread-winners in their households. What better way can the government ameliorate the hardship of those poor households who were taken unawares by the novel pandemic, than to ensure that the NSIP is re-engineered to incorporate them and provide urgent remedies for their benefit?

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Increase in COVID-19 tests, reveals higher number of confirmed cases in Bayelsa

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Picture shows a member of the CSO Situation Room addressing people at a public place in Bayelsa State

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bayelsa State increased astronomically within a period of two days, following an increase in the number of tests conducted on samples of suspected cases taken from the State. The State still has no COVID-19 Test Centre. Given the rising number of confirmed cases in the neighbouring States, Rivers and Delta, coupled with the unrestricted movement of people across the boundaries between Bayelsa and the border States, it was predicted before now, by the CSO Situation Room, that Bayelsa State could witness a community transmission. Also, the failure to observe the stipulated guidelines to prevent a spread of the virus, such as the use of face masks and handsanitisers, regular hand washing and physical distancing, was a compelling reason to suspect that Bayelsa could be having more than the 32 confirmed cases which it had as of June 10, 2020, if more tests were conducted. Sadly, this suspicion has become a reality, with more tests being conducted. On June 16, Bayelsa recorded 54 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the State’s total number of confirmed cases to 86. This marks the highest number of reported cases in a single day, in the State. On the following day, June 17, Bayelsa recorded a new set of 25 confirmed cases, which further increased the number of infected persons to 111, as published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.

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Civil Society Network organises Sensitisation campaign on gender-based violence in Borno

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An interactive forum on gender-based violence (GBV) organised by the Civil Societies Network at Bolari 1 IDP camp, Konduga LGA, Borno State

Borno State Report:

With the rising spate of rape cases recorded in several States of Nigeria in recent times, concerns have been raised in Dalori 1 IDP camp in Konduga LGA of Borno State, about the need to protect girls by empowering them with knowledge through child-sex education, as well as information about Gender-based Violence (GBV). This has prompted the Borno State Civil Societies Network which includes Social Action, to launch a sensitisation campaign at the Dalori 1 IDP camp, with a view to creating massive awareness amongst teenage girls, about the dangers of sexual exploitation and the need to stay vigilant against sexual predators. The campaign which is slated to be a weekly sensitisation programme, commenced in June, 2020, and is aimed at reaching out to teenage girls who are referred to as Persons of Concern (POCs) in the camp.

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Social Action laments increase in self-medication against COVID-19 in Akwa Ibom

Uyo, Akwa Ibom State (courtesy Helloakwaibom)

AKWA IBOM REPORT

There have been alarming reports in Akwa Ibom State about the flagrant refusal of some residents of the State, to comply with the laid-down protocol of the government, relating to the testing of persons who have symptoms of the coronavirus disease. It was gathered that, several people who experience these symptoms, such as fever, sore throat and difficulty in breathing, no longer contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. Instead, they stay at home and experiment with drugs, especially anti-malaria drugs, with a view to finding a cure to the symptoms they are experiencing. The Social Development Integrated Centre, also called Social Action, believes that by this development, we have hit a new low, in the fight against the pandemic. It is a clear departure from the initial response to the pandemic which saw many persons being tested, quarantined, treated and re-tested to ascertain a clean bill of health, before being discharged. The confounding reports on people resorting to self-medication at home, without being tested, only spells doom for the populace. The refusal of these people to get tested and placed in isolation (if found positive to the virus), will expose many others to the disease and prevent the NCDC from getting the actual figures and overall statistics about the pandemic in Nigeria. The current number of confirmed cases in the State stands at 48, as of June 14, 2020, but from all indications, there could be more infected persons in the State who are on self-medication or have recovered, without undergoing a medical test to ascertain their status.

It was learnt that some people who experienced complete loss of smell and taste, as well as fever and sore throats, recovered fully within 3 – 5 days, after administering anti-malarial medications on themselves. This has stirred doubts in the minds of several persons in the State, about the authenticity of NCDC’s fight against COVID-19, with some people suggesting that the anti-financial crime agencies in the country should investigate the work of the NCDC, and ascertain if the rumours about NCDC giving false records of confirmed and quarantined cases in order to inflate its budget, is true. Not a few persons in the State now believe COVID-19 is only a common ailment, synonymous to malaria, which is not worth the fuss it generated in the country at its inception.

However, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has in recent times, updated on its website, the COVID-19 symptoms, which now include, shivering, catarrh, diarrhoea, headache and fatigue, as well as cough, fever, difficulty breathing, sore throat, loss of smell and loss of taste. The NCDC has also addressed the similarities in the manifestation of COVID-19 and malaria in humans, by stating on its website, that, “Although both diseases may present with fever, they are very different. COVID-19 is caused by a virus while malaria is caused by a plasmodium parasite. An individual can have COVID-19 and malaria at the same time, but they are very different”.

The deadly coronavirus disease, has been known to have diverse effects on infected persons, with some having mild symptoms and others, very severe symptoms, owing to the presence of underlying conditions, or an exposure to a high viral-load of the germ. It is therefore necessary for the State Government to work in conjunction with the Federal Government of Nigeria and its agency, the NCDC, to adopt means of addressing this budding problem of self-medication, so as to ensure that NCDC continues to capture the actual statistics on the infection rate of COVID-19, as well as the survival and death rates. Some of those measures could include an enhanced contact tracing and surveillance.

Social Action therefore calls on the State Government to pay attention to the need for more COVID-19 surveillance and do all within its power, to ensure the State has more surveillance teams involved in contact-tracing and collection of samples from suspected cases for testing. It has become expedient for the State to have more surveillance teams in all LGAs of the State, given the hike in the number of confirmed cases, and the increase in suspected cases that have resorted to self-medication within the State. The government should also intensify its collaboration with the NCDC to ensure that all health workers involved in the management of coronavirus cases are well-trained and equipped for the work. All first responders and medical professionals in all hospitals should be given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect them while they attend to patients under their care. In addition, the State Government must deploy resources within its control towards ensuring an adequate provision of essential supplies such as medical equipment, food, drugs, face masks and sanitisers. For a State faced with such a high degree of distrust by the people, in the way and manner the NCDC has handled the pandemic, it is expected that the government will do all it can to ensure that the confirmed cases in the State are well-managed and no item needed for their care is lacking. This has become necessary, not only for the survival of infected persons in the State, but also to encourage more persons to willingly subject themselves to a test, if they experience any of the COVID-19 symptoms, and be quarantined, if they test positive to the virus.

Social Action condemns stigmatisation, calls for more COVID-19 testing in Rivers State

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Rivers State Report:

The scepticism about the existence of the deadly coronavirus, has become a trending development in Rivers State, despite the rising number of confirmed cases in the State, which stood at 489, as of June 14, 2020. The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who spoke recently about the distrust and disbelief of many residents in the State about the virus, stressed that their cynicism is posing a major challenge in the bid to rapidly combat the pandemic, as he hinted that Bonny Local Government Area is now the epicentre of the pandemic, accounting for a large percentage of the number of confirmed cases in the State. The Social Development Integrated Centre, also known as Social Action, a non-governmental organisation currently involved in research and monitoring of the impacts of COVID-19, has noted that the scepticism and denial surrounding the pandemic, is symptomatic of the stigmatisation of persons confirmed to be infected with the disease. The fear of stigmatisation from having one’s family member tagged a coronavirus survivor or added to the statistics of coronavirus deaths, is what drives the narrative falsely peddled by many in the State that the virus is not real. Many would rather profess that COVID-19 is a hoax; and in the event that anyone in their families dies, it will never be said that the life was lost to the novel disease, even if it was. This explains the reason why, in spite of the fact that, some prominent persons in the state who are well-known to the people, have died as a result of coronavirus, many people would still not want to admit to themselves that the virus is real.

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The appalling allocation of ₦27.7Bn for National Assembly renovation, amid Health and Education Budget cuts

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                                                                                    Written by Lucas Nwachukwu

While the state of healthcare and education is changing globally as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian government has chosen to be ignorant of this reality. In a shameless and appalling move, the Federal Government in the 2020 revised budget, allocated to the National Assembly a whooping ₦27.7 Billion for the renovation of its complex, while the allocation for basic healthcare provision, which is meant to cater for the public healthcare sector of the entire country for a year, was significantly reduced by ₦44.4 Billion to ₦25.5 Billion, a decrease of more than 42.5 percent. Similarly, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) fund was reduced significantly, from ₦111.7 Billion to ₦51.1 Billion, by more than 54.2 percent.

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