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ECOWAS donates 4,000 tonnes of food items to Nigeria

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HELPING HAND :
• ECOWAS donates 4,000 tonnes of food items to Nigeria

The ECOWAS Commission has donated about 4,000 tonnes of food items to the Federal Government for distribution to vulnerable households, to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sangare Sekou, the ECOWAS Commissioner of Agriculture, Water Resources and Environment, disclosed this at the presentation of the items to the Federal Government on Saturday in Kano.

Sekou said that the gesture was to demonstrate the region’s solidarity with the Government and People of Nigeria.

He said: “This regional solidarity will be demonstrated through food donations of a total quantity of 3,999 tonnes of cereals comprising of millet and sorghum.

“The first donation consists of 1,196 tonnes of cereals financed by the ECOWAS Commission’s Humanitarian Emergency Fund for Disaster and Emergency Relief to Member States affected by a humanitarian crisis.

“While the second donation of 2,803 tonnes is funded by the resources of the Regional Food Security Storage Support Project, which the European Union is financing for a total amount of €56 million.

“The grains will be taken from the stocks in the ECOWAS Regional Food Security Reserve, partly warehoused with the Federal Strategic Reserve Department (FSRD) and distributed free of charge to the households mostly affected by the humanitarian situation in the country.”

The Commissioner said the donations would complement the multidimensional support ECOWAS was providing to Nigeria since the advent of COVID -19 in the country on Feb. 27.

Sekou noted that the COVID -19 pandemic disrupted production, warehousing, marketing, processing, and distribution systems of agriculture and food productions, especially in the Northeastern part of the Country.

“The Harmonised Framework for Identifying Risk Areas and Vulnerability estimates that over 7,087,102 people are currently in difficult food situations in the country, including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and children affected by malnutrition.

“The ECOWAS Commission has, therefore, decided to provide the support of the region through its Humanitarian Emergency Fund and the financial support of the European Union within the framework of the Regional Food Security Storage Support Project,” he said.

He added that food donations would assist vulnerable households to cope with the multiple crises while safeguarding their livelihoods.

According to him, ECOWAS Humanitarian Policy aims to prevent, mitigate, and provide durable solutions to the complex emergencies including natural and man-made disasters in the region.

It is also designed to complement the ECOWAS Disaster Risk Reduction Policy, focusing on disaster risk mitigation through viable interventions targeted at reducing risks as an obstacle to development.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports also that the Regional Food Security Reserve Established on Feb. 28, 2013 in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, aims to complement the efforts of Member States to provide diversified rapid food and nutritional assistance.

In a remark, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, said the Federal Government had distributed 70,000 tonnes of food items to deserving households in the country.

Umar-Farouq said the food items were supplied by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under the National Strategic Food Reserve.

She said the government also implemented Conditional Cash transfer and loans to vulnerable families and market women to mitigate their sufferings occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister added that about 15 million Nigerians were captured under the Social Register, to mobilize participation in the National Social Investment Programme.

While commending ECOWAS for the gesture, Umar-farouq said the food items would be distributed to vulnerable families, IDPs and victims of disasters in the country.

Also speaking, Amb. Zubairu Dada, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, reiterated the Federal Government commitment to promote the goals of the ECOWAS, and strengthen peace to achieve sustainable development in the region.

Dada noted that President Muhammadu Buhari had initiated viable project to fast track sustainable environment, water and agricultural development as well as enhance regional integration.

While lauding ECOWAS for the distribution of livestock to households in Kebbi State, Dada pledged continued support to the commission.

NAN reports that the exercise was attended by Alhaji Baba Shehuri, Minister of State Agriculture, Fatima Jagne, ECOWAS Commissioner of Social Affairs and Gender as well as representatives of the Kano State Government.

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COVID-19 NIGERIA: GOD, OR VOODOO ARITHMETIC?

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COVID-19 NIGERIA: GOD, OR VOODOO ARITHMETIC?

By Fola Ojo

It commenced as a localised endemic in Wuhan, China. From there, its mangling metastasis hit South Korea, Italy, Japan, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Few weeks after, it spiralled down into a few African nations including my beloved Nigeria. The manifestation of the novel disease coronavirus or COVID-19, did not consciously hit the world until around January, this year. In the aftermath, humanity slid into a panic mode. From a few numbers of cases, headcounts from the effects of the rabid virus shot up into thousands infected, and thousands more human beings losing the breath of life. While developed nations with cutting edge healthcare system were and are still counting horror numbers in citizens infected, hospitalised, and dead, Nigeria is recording far lower even than an average nation whose citizens are in strict obedience to preventative protocols against the virus.

Recently, I saw a picture of some family members in an event in Lagos where no single person had a mask even in their pockets. They left their homes with no shred of thoughts about the dangers of COVID-19. While the mask-culture has become a lifestyle in America where I live, what I observe in Nigeria makes me think that the country must not be on planet earth. I asked my sister why nobody had a mask on. She responded: “Boda mi, there is no koro in Naija oooo. Koro is dead”. I asked a few pastor friends of mine who live in Nigeria. Many of them had similar responses: “It’s God oooo. We have prayed Koro away from Naija”. Do we not pray in America; or my friends in the United Kingdom don’t know how to seek God’s face? Does God hate the rest of the world where men are bundled in body-bags and six feet below as a result of COVID-19? Please somebody tell me what is the magic against COVID-19 in Nigeria? Is it God; or voodoo arithmetic headcount? It has to be God, indeed!

According to Nigerian government data, as of today, about 57,000 cases have been recorded, 44, 000 have recovered, and 1,088 deaths. I still want to know the Nigerian magic against COVID-19. People cluster in markets with no masks. They agglutinate at feverish owambe parties without facial coverings. They dance; they sing; they carry on as if nothing is in the air. Where masks are worn, they are like malfunction wardrobes. Coverings are strapped around the chin, neck, mouth, leaving the nostrils wide open for deadly droplets to inhabit their nasal cavities. And you believe coronavirus cases are accurately rock-bottom low in Naija? Is this God; or voodoo arithmetic headcounts? It must be God!

When I think about how Nigeria arrested Ebola Virus Disease at its killer throes, a part of me wants to stand in obeisance to Nigeria’s unusual tactics and strategies arresting ravaging viruses. It truly must be God. An infected Liberian man who arrived Lagos by air brought Ebola virus into Nigeria on July 20, 2014. Five days later, the man died. But he had already set off a raging fire of the virus in Nigeria’s commercial capital with about 23 million people. Who in Nigeria will forget Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, the Lead Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist at a private hospital in Lagos? Adadevoh had never seen Ebola before but was able to diagnose and contain Nigeria’s first-ever Ebola patient. The outbreak was effectively controlled by authorities garnering support from the private sector and international community. Eight people died; and 12 infected were nursed back to good health.

Reports of the effect of COVID-19 in Africa, especially in Nigeria, have shocked scientists around the world. Factors like population density; and crowding in poverty-stricken neighbourhoods that make social distancing impossible should have been scientifically considered enhancers and facilitators of a wild and wide spread of the virus. But these factors have obviously worked in the opposite direction. The expectation all along had been that Nigeria should be one of the worst-hit; but that is not the case. Nigeria is doing better than many nations both with regard to cases and casualties. Experts around the world also agree that even if cases are underreported in Nigeria, the nation is doing well regarding her approach to COVID-19.

The UK’s top virologist Professor Shabir Madhi told the BBC News regarding COVID-19 and Africa: “I thought we were heading towards a disaster, a complete meltdown.” The UK’s top virologist echoed what others must have thought about the African coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this year, the monster-virus sneaked into Nigeria from Europe and the UK en-route the United States. Travellers from these two hotspots who were determined to circumvent America’s travel ban order on their citizens took advantage of Nigeria’s Business e-visa initiative rolled out last year to ease international business.

It allows business investors to apply online for a visa before travelling to Nigeria. These cruel and crafty travellers from the UK and other European countries exploited the loophole to facilitate their travels through the Delta Airlines’ direct flight to Atlanta. When I received this information, I quickly contacted Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, about considering shutting down the nation’s borders to people travelling by air from outside of the country who might be carriers of the deadly virus. Three days after, the Federal Government announced a travel restriction to passengers from 13 countries attempting to enter Nigeria.

For those Nigerians who are still downplaying the gruesomeness of this virus, rethink. Ask those who have seen the virus in action with its terror fangs. Ask anyone who has once experienced it; or who knows someone in the cruel claws of the pandemic. I am sure their testaments will give you a clearer picture of the virulence of the virus. To my sister who said that God has killed COVID-19 in Nigeria, I say a loud Amen! She knows I also believe in God. And I also believe in God’s word that says “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom…” Wisdom is not the vice-principal, or deputy to anything. It is the main thing. It is the Commander-In-Chief. That is why for now, until the world gets a medicinal intervention or preventative vaccine, when you find yourself in a large gathering of people, strap on your mask, stay six-feet distant from the next person; and sanitise your hands often.

– Follow me on Twitter @folaojotweet

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• NCDC, experts differ on ending face masks, temperature checks

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CORONAVIRUS:

• NCDC, experts differ on ending face masks, temperature checks

…It’s when COVID-19 vaccine is found, says Centre

…Nigeria has to be certified free first, virologist declares

…NMA president says nobody can predict the time

…Cost-weary citizens do away with shields

There seems no end yet for temperature checks and use of face masks as experts, on Thursday, expressed diverse positions on when Nigerians should do away with the shield and the checks.

These, among other measures, were introduced to prevent citizens from contracting or spreading the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. But it is noticeable across the country that many citizens have abandoned the use of masks and doing temperature checks.

While the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says Nigerians should continue with face masks until an effective vaccine is found, some medical experts say there is no conclusion yet on the matter because the biology and epidemiology of COVID-19 are not well understood at the moment.

A virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, told The Guardian that the measures should not be ended “until a country is declared free of the disease, like polio-free status, or maybe no case reported for a period of time, like two times the maximum incubation period in the face of reliable surveillance, adequate laboratory testing and efficient contact tracing.”

He wondered when the time would come.

Similarly, the President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Prof. Innocent Ujah, painted a picture of a long time waiting for the end of the virus. He said, “It is too early to know when to stop wearing face masks or stop temperature checks. Nobody at the moment could be very categorical about the two issues raised. The biology and epidemiology of COVID-19 is not well understood at the moment.”

While the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi Araba, and Consultant Paediatric Surgeon, Prof. Bode Chris, told The Guardian the virus could only be said to have ended “when COVID-19 is officially declared over by the government, based on scientific evidence of such,” the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako, said the end would not be certified “until we are sure the epidemic curve has flattened and cases have gone down to single-digit per day.”

A vaccinologist, former researcher at the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and founder/CEO of Innovative Biotech, Keffi, Nasarawa State, Dr. Simon Agwale, told The Guardian: “I think we can only stop wearing masks or using temperature checks when we find an effective vaccine. Without this, it will be risky to stop wearing masks.”

MEANWHILE, the NCDC has advised Nigerians to wear face masks every day until a vaccine is found for COVID-19.

The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, told The Guardian that with the non-availability of a vaccine that could prevent COVID-19, citizens must depend on non-pharmaceutical measures such as use of face masks, handwashing, social distancing and management of confirmed cases to mitigate the impact of the disease.

“Studies have shown that the correct use of face masks is critical to reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection. We encourage people and businesses around the world to rally behind the importance of wearing a mask properly every day until a vaccine that prevents infection is readily accessible to all citizens,” he said.

Ihekweazu, who is also an epidemiologist, emphasised that the use of masks is a key component of Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) procedures in medical and non-medical settings.

He stressed that given the widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in Nigeria, strict adherence to using of masks in public spaces, particularly where physical distancing might not be practical, could slow the spread of the virus.

“The appropriate use of a face mask is one of the comprehensive non-pharmaceutical preventive and control measures adopted to limit the spread of COVID-19 by preventing respiratory droplet transmission. Masks can also be used by healthy persons to reduce exposure,” he said.

Ihekweazu said the NCDC, in its effort to strengthen IPC in health facilities, had continued to prioritise training of health workers and supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face masks, to state facilities.

“As Nigeria’s public health institute, we will continue to provide periodic advisories on face mask usage, including making and care of reusable cloth masks,” he said.

Ihekweazu added: “Firstly, there is scientific evidence that wearing face masks reduces the risk of spread of COVID-19. Also, the early detection of high temperature can help to reduce contacts between those that are healthy and others who may have been infected.

“It is very important we do not stop these public health and safety measures. Even when a vaccine is made available for population-use, it is not a magic bullet. We may still be required to adhere to certain measures to protect ourselves in addition to the vaccine, in certain circumstances.

“For now, there is a risk of further spread of COVID-19 if people do not adhere to public health and safety measures such as wearing a face mask in public settings, hand-washing, physical distancing and others.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), medical face masks should be worn primarily by people who show symptoms of COVID-19, health workers and people who are taking care of people with COVID-19 in closed settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).

As arguments and different opinions persist on the right time to stop the use of face masks and temperature checks, it has been observed that many citizens are fast leaving their faces unshielded, perhaps because of the costs of changing the masks regularly.

Citizens buy face shields from hawkers at costs not factored by those who insist they must wear them.

Even some organisations have stopped giving masks to their workers, exposing them to the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

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NDLEA, HEALTH WORKERS WORRIED ABOUT SPIKE IN MARIJUANA SMOKING

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NDLEA, HEALTH WORKERS WORRIED ABOUT SPIKE IN MARIJUANA SMOKING

‌By Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has expressed concerns over the sudden increase in the number of cannabis smokers in the country, warning that it could have a dire consequence for the country.

The NDLEA is not alone with this concern as health workers have also warned that cannabis smokers are more susceptible to getting infected with COVID-19.

Cannabis smoking is the inhalation of smoke or vapours released by heating the flowers, leaves, or extracts of cannabis and releasing the main psychoactive chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol, which is absorbed into the bloodstream via the lungs.

Since the Federal Government’s pronouncement of lockdown in states affected by COVID-19, there has been heightened report of how local cannabis sellers are embracing trading on the dark web, online vending of cannabis and other psychotropic substances online.

It could be recalled that the NDLEA had warned on June 23, 2020, that the COVID-19 lockdown in states affected by COVID-19 could give rise to drug addiction and experimentation of newer concoctions.

Chairman of the agency, Col. Muhammad Abdallah (retd.) gave the warning at a virtual news briefing to commemorate the 2020 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking in Abuja.

“In the light of the prevailing atmosphere of COVID-19, drug-dependent persons are more acutely at risk because of their usually attendant underlying health issues, social stigmatization, and the dearth of access to health care.

“Making matters worse is the fact that the front burner currently is the exclusive pressure of COVID-19, other matters less so. That is why there has never been time much worse for drug-dependent persons. The lockdown merely accentuated the dilemma,” he said.

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