By Ali Sabo
Coronaviruses are emerging zoonotic infections that are transmitted from animals to humans. The current pandemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a new strain of the virus named SARS-CoV-2, which was not previously identified in any species. The outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organisation on 31st December, 2019 by the Chinese authority in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
On 27 February, Nigeria confirmed its first case of Covid-19 in Lagos State, in an Italian citizen working in Nigeria. The index case returned to Nigeria on February 25th from Milan (a city identified as an epicentre of the virus) through Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
In late April, precisely on the 25th of April, 2020 Kano State recorded its index case of the disease. Prior to the reportage of the index case in the state, the government had taken measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Kano as one of the country’s major centers of commerce and a trade hub in the northern region would be a difficult place to control a pandemic of such great magnitude.
Even before the index case of the virus in Kano state, as part of its contribution to ensuring the safety of the citizens, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) had issued press releases to draw the attention of the authority on the need to implement preventive measures in the state. Some of the CITAD’s recommendations for preventing spread of the virus include banning gathering of crowd, state’s borders closure, involvement of citizens groups in COVID-19 committees, sensitization of religious leaders on dangers of COVID-19, setting up a public awareness committee, and ensuring compliance with the preventive measures brought up by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
At the peak of the virus spread in the state, CITAD intensified its efforts on awareness creation on the need for the citizens to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols. This was done using different social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Part of this campaign was the Twitter Chat with a hashtag #CITADAgainstCOVID19 initiated by the Centre, which was conducted twice every week. In the Twitter chat, experts from every profession i.e. health, media, policymakers, academics, social influencers, etc, are invited to discuss specific topics in order to educate the public and raise awareness about the importance of adhering to the WHO and NCDC guidelines.
Luckily, as the campaign continued to garner momentum, the Centre got support from MacArthur Foundation and International Institute of Education. Hence, it expanded its interventions by training 120 youths in Kano state on various ways of responding to COVID-19. Given the need to observe social distancing, the training was conducted online. During the training, they were taught how to develop messages, and how to use social media to create awareness on COVID-19. They were also trained on community mobilization, persuasion, and how to identify key influencers in their communities. They were exposed to strategies of helping their community members fight and prevent the spread of coronavirus, including the importance of observing social distancing, wearing facemasks, and regular hand washing. At the end of the training, the participants were asked to write a proposal and 41 of them with promising proposals were awarded mini-grants to implement the outlined activities in their communities.
The most interesting thing about the mini grant was that youths from different communities in the state were sub-granteed to carry out the activities they proposed to do in their communities. This has given the sensitization campaigns more acceptance by the communities who see their sons and daughters directly driving the campaigns. The sensitization campaigns reached a huge number of people including those who ordinarily could not be reached, but for the strategies employed by CITAD in training members of the communities and allowing them the privilege to drive the campaigns.
Some of the uniqueness of the campaigns include door to door engagement, where sub-grantees, especially females, entered from house to house to sensitize women in their communities (who would not be able to attend town halls meetings and other forms of gathering). Others had follow people to their religious gatherings like mosques and churches, and trained them on the importance of adhering to COVID-19 prevention protocols.
During the project, some of the sub-grantees produced different types of locally made sanitizers, hand wash, and trained women in their communities on how to produce these items. Some groups developed messages for fliers about COVID-19 protocols and distributed in their communities. At religious places, the sub-grantees distributed those fliers and pasted banners at the entrances, educating the public about how to contain COVID-19. To ensure inclusiveness, three of the beneficiaries of the mini-grants conducted their activities on People Living with Disabilities communities. While one of them was disabled, the other two were trained by the sign language facilitators.
To ensure the message has reached every corner in the state, CITAD also sponsored three different radio programs. Two were aired on Vision FM and Express Radio with the titles: “Yaki Da Cutar Korona” and “Mu Kare Kanmu Daga Cutar Korona”, respectively. The third program was aired on Arewa Radio, another popular radio station in the state. These programs were designed to enlighten the people about COVID-19 and all the necessary information the public need to know about the pandemic. The programs were aired weekly, with professionals invited to address specific topical issues.
Upon resumption of schools in Kano state, CITAD felt the need to train the teachers on preventive measures and NCDC guidelines on schools reopening. In this aspect, CITAD trained 180 teachers from Kano State Senior Secondary Schools Management Board and Kano State Science and Technical Management Board. The trained teachers are expected to go back to their schools and step down the training to their colleagues to ensure the safety of both teachers and students.
To promote literacy and devise other ways in sending messages in the society, the Centre also supported and sponsored the publication of 1000 copies of selected poems on COVID-19, which is now developed into a book titled, Corona Blues.
Other intervention made by the Centre include production of short campaign videos and serving as the Secretariat of Kano Against COVID-19 Committee. Kano Against COVID-19 is an initiative of Kano state concerned citizens and Civil Society leaders. It was set up to mobilize support for the COVID-19 pandemic in Kano State
Ali Sabo, a Communication Officer and Coordinator Covid-19 Project, CITAD. can be reached via : firstname.lastname@example.org