Nigeria confirmed their first COVID-19 case on 27th February and since then Nigeria’s centre for disease control has been the leading institution for reporting and tackling the pandemic.
By June 2020, there were 22,020 cases and 542 deaths recorded.
Nigerians have to adapt to a new reality, after initially only hearing the news via media platforms regarding the effect of the virus. COVID-19 has been with us for four months and has already had a dramatic effect on daily lives in Nigeria.
Firstly, it has affected the economy, as the government was forced to review its economic policy and diversify away from an over-reliance on crude oil. The price of crude oil crashed, from $60 in 2019 to $20 per barrel in March 2020, as globally people are travelling much less. As a result, the economy is rapidly declining and without care, the country may enter into recession.
The spread of COVID-19 led to lockdown in several states, including the economic centre of Lagos State; there were very few economic activities during the lockdown. The temporary halt in economics has affected many small-scale businesses and some are already folding. Several companies have to lay off workers and it is projected that almost 40 million Nigerians (more than the entire population of Poland), may lose their job as a result of the pandemic.
Lockdown has also been extremely challenging for Nigerian people, particularly those living in overcrowded areas. People were expected to stay at home 24 hours per day; yet in March and April temperatures often average 45 degrees centigrade, and there were frequent power cuts.
Moreover, there were widespread reports of police brutality and the UN estimates that at least 18 people have been killed by the police enforcing lock down restrictions.
COVID-19 has also increased food insecurity and many Nigerians are at risk of hunger.
Even before the pandemic, there were food shortages reported in Nigeria. In 2018, The World Health Organization reported that Nigeria was overburdened by three main malnutrition indicators: anemia, overweight, and stunting.
The educational system is also grounded as virtual classes are limited, as many families and schools do not have access to the resources needed to facilitate this.
However, there are some positive effects. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the state of health care system in Nigeria and this forced the government to declare a state of emergency in the health sector. The health sector has gradually improved to tackle the pandemic. One such improvement has been the Ogun state government announcing the first modern molecular laboratory in the state.
This pandemic also promotes goodwill among Nigerians; it has brought people together to support community members, providing aid for the most vulnerable.
Finally, COVID-19 has brought out the creativity in Nigerians – people made face masks from local materials, mobile apps were developed and some tertiary institutions developed ventilators. There are also breakthroughs in the development of vaccines reported.
COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for Nigeria but there is hope at the end of the tunnel.
Olayemi Michael Godwin, is a BSc. Nutrition and Dietetics student at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nigeria. He lives in Ogun State Nigeria.
Dr Julie Abayomi is an Associate Head of Applied Health & Social Care at EHU, and a Reader in Dietetics.
Image by Oleksii Liskonih