Covid-19: Lessons for Nigeria

Italy is responsible for nearly 60% of Covid-19 deaths in Europe, with Spain responsible for another 25%. In some places, shopping malls and sporting facilities are used as makeshift morgues to house the rapidly rising number of deaths.

About 5400 health workers in Spain are infected with Covid-19, that’s about 1 in every 5 cases in Spain is a health worker and they are mandated by the government to continue working.

That’s the extent of the Covid-19 emergency, even in countries with modern health systems, strong capabilities and huge resources. I didn’t even mention Iran. Covid-19 is today a global threat of historic proportion.

In Nigeria, we seemed to be doing well until our leaders, in their usual recklessness, refused to put restrictions on inbound travels or observe the slightest precautions on themselves.

As the Covid-19 clock ticks inexorably, our leaders failed to heed the warning signs even as countries scramble to build up their stockpiles of medical supplies (testing kits, ventilators, PPEs, etc).

One thing is certain, after this experience, many countries will learn their lessons, will read out their never again resolutions. Except, of course, Nigeria, where our leaders will return to business as usual.

There are three aspects of the Covid-19 response that will continue to play a determining role in our ability to adequately respond to any future emergency:

Public Health System: the resilience and preparedness of public health systems is key. This not only require personnel, but the ability to rapidly and internally produce essential medical supplies and equipment on a colossal scale during emergencies, as well as the level of investment and advancement in R&D that will help in developing breakthrough innovations.

Economic System: the strength and resilience of the economic system also play a key role. The shocks created by unprecedented economic and social disruptions can only be cushioned via adequate stimulus packages to individuals and businesses. Going forward, Nigeria should create a statutory emergency fund that receive first line charge from the federation account.

Logistics: this is the country’s ability to harness data and deploy resources for contact tracing and for delivering relief and aids to affected individuals and communities. China did not built a 1,000 bed hospital in 10 days by chance, neither did South Korea’s aggressive testing of hundreds of thousands of people.

The reality is that we are caught unprepared by Covid-19, just like many other countries. The difference is that most of our leaders are temperamentally and intellectually unsuited for dealing with these types of emergencies. That’s why there is little personal leadership and very little inspiration.

Covid-19 will not be the end of global epidemics and pandemics, it is the future, and the consequences are enormous. Future global threats will be less about nuclear risks and more about infectious diseases with no known cure, rapid transmission rate and high mortality, causing economic, social and political disruptions in an unprecedented scale.

As we brace up for the tougher days ahead as Nigeria moves across its Covid-19 curve, we should have it in mind that our sufferings and sacrifices will only be worthwhile if we learn the right lessons and put in place the right measures that will prepare us against future emergencies. Let it be read that the suffering of our Covid-19 victims (direct and indirect) shall never be in vain.

By Ahmed Musa Hussaini

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