By: Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim
Northern Nigerian States such as Jigawa, Sokoto, Borno and Yobe have joined the list of States with rapidly growing cases of Covid-19. The rapid growth has been linked to poor physical distancing practices such as the continuation of congregational prayers, burial and funeral practices, persistence of doubts within the community about the existence of the disease and disarray and inadequate resources in the health care system. To address these issues in the State, a citizens and civil society initiative, Kano Against Covid-19 was established. In a press statement signed by A. B. Mahmoud SAN and others, they sought to define the nature of the crisis and the best way of addressing it.
They point out that the Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis globally and nationally. In Nigeria, it was obvious that there was a very slow start to the response of governments both at Federal and State levels. However, the response has picked up and gathered momentum at the National level with business leaders and philanthropists playing a very significant role. Some states such as Lagos, have exhibited much greater capability and professionalism in dealing with the crisis and have been able to mobilize resources within a short span of time to put effective structures on ground and also address some of the humanitarian needs of their people.
Unfortunately, the situation in Kano State has been quite worrisome if not alarming. There is evidence of full-scale community transmission with significant increase in the number of deaths recorded in the last three weeks. It was obvious that there was inadequate preparation at the state level and control measures were ineffective. There was lack of clear messaging to the citizens by the State Government. Discordant tunes were also coming from some religious and community leaders expressing doubts about the disease. The lockdown subsequently introduced by the State authorities and extended by the Federal Government was not vigorously enforced. There was seeming dissonance in the institutional framework for the coordination of the State Covid-19 Control efforts including crisis within the State Task Force after some of its members became infected. The only testing facility at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) was temporarily closed after being contaminated and although two additional testing centres have been opened, the testing capacity remains low.
It was in this context that Kano stakeholders and community leaders came together to establish the citizen initiative – Kano Against Covid-19. Its objectives are to engage in advocacy and mobilization along the three tiers of government, within the community, the private sector, civil society and international partners to combat the pandemic; identify the key problems and challenges that bedevil the efforts to curb the spread of COVID 19 In the State; develop an intervention logic and set of practices that will address the problems and challenges identified and finally, develop a framework on how to engage collectively to contribute to a better strategy of curtailing and containing the spread of the virus in Kano
People who have been engaged in the initiative are prominent community leaders, professionals of various backgrounds and civil society leaders. The leadership of the initiative include Bashir Othman Tofa, Abba Dabo, Prof. M. Y. Bello, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman, Isyaku Umar Tofa, Fatima Wali, Sule Yahaya Hamma, A. B. Mahmoud SAN, Maryam Uwais, Amal Hassan and professors M. Y. Bello, Auwal Yadudu, Mohammed Tabiu and Jibrin Ibrahim. Participants in virtual meetings by the initiative include Dr. Sani Aliyu, Chief Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Dr. Nasir Sani Gwarzo, Head of the Presidential Task Force to Kano along with his colleague Dr. Mukhtar Mohammed. Others are Prof. Musa Mohammed Borodo the Head of the Scientific Committee of the Kano State Government on Covid-19 and Ms Zouera Youssoufou, CEO of Aliko Dangote Foundation.
Kano Against Covid-19 has been concerned about the situation because assessments have demonstrated that Kano is at the stage of widespread community spread of the disease especially in the densely populated core local government areas of the metropolis: Dala, Municipal and Gwale. It recommends that it is it is urgent to establish the extent and pattern of the epidemic by rapidly expanding testing and the provision of more testing centres and kits; the provision of more bed spaces for isolation, setting up triage and holding areas to facilitate safe case management of patients and the the adoption of a unified management protocols for all COVID patients in the State. Given that a significant number of medical personnel have become infected, there is urgent need for the procurement and delivery of sufficient PPEs for their protection. Most medical centres in the State have stopped admitting patients for non-covid-19 infections and a system of triage, sorting and provision of telemedicine facilities should be introduced urgently to ensure medical care for all sick persons. Urgent measures to provide for the welfare of Advocacy for health care workers – Remuneration, Accommodation, Adequate protection, Health Insurance. Establishment of a joint task force consisting of the members of the current state Task Force and representation from AKTH and NOH Dala – for improved synergy and coordination and for unified decisions and implementation strategies.
One of the problems identified is that there is a profound series of misunderstanding of the disease in Kano and working with key stakeholders – the State Government, traditional rulers and religious leaders, the initiative would work towards improving public enlightenment on combatting the epidemic. Currently, the continuation of congregational prayers in some mosques, playing of football and other sports, mass attendance of burials all indicate a very poor understanding of physical distancing which the initiative would work towards addressing. It is also necessary to work with stakeholders to popularize the advisory delivered by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) on the interment of possible victims of COVID-19 pandemic which recommends safer and Islamically legitimate ways of washing, shrouding carrying out Janazah prayers for suspected Covid-19 victims. Same for the recommendation that attendance at Funerals (Salatul Janazah and Burial) for all Deceased (COVID19 and Non-COVID19) during the period of the Pandemic should NOT be attended by people vulnerable to COVID19.
The Kano Against Covid-19 Initiative is also deploying mechanisms to support the use of technology to address the crisis. This includes working with relevant stakeholders to develop content to mount a social media enlightenment campaign; setting up a call centre facility to support easier contact with NCDC and another call centre for the public seeking interventions. An App is also being developed that would enable people to self-test themselves based on questions provided by the Ministry of Health. The result of the self-test would go directly to the NCDC and it can use it as basis to act.
The Kano Against Covid-19 Initiative has developed a governance and delivery framework. The main organs of the initiative are a Governing Council that provides oversight and serves as a liaison organ with Federal and State authorities as well as other stakeholders such as Ulama religious and traditional leaders. There is also a Steering Committee which is the main decision organ of the Initiative. The main work is however done by technical committees. The Secretariat of Kano Against Covid-19 is at the Centre for Technology and Development (CITAD).