By Michael Olugbode
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has moved to prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from spreading into Borno State with a promise to provide necessary tools for communities in the North-east state.
The United Nations agency has also trained education facilitators in the sensitisation of communities on the importance of hygiene practices and continuing learning at home during crises.
The training, which focused on humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic, equipped the facilitators with information and materials to effectively educate communities on the need to prevent communicable diseases with simple hygiene practices, as well as the adverse effects of protracted school closure on girls and vulnerable children.
Speaking during the training on Wednesday, the Education Manager, UNICEF Borno Field Office, Dr. Nasser Kaddoura, said parents and guardians have a role to play in ensuring that children learn how to wash their hands properly with soap and running water and continue studying while at home during crises.
He said: “During a global pandemic, one of the cheapest, easiest and most important ways to prevent the spread of a virus is to wash our hands frequently with soap and water. Proper hand washing not only reduces the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), it can prevent the spread of other illnesses such as cold and flu.
“We are engaging facilitators to step this preventive measure, including social distancing to communities and internally displaced persons’ camps.
“Research has revealed that shutting schools for abnormally long period of time has negative outcomes on children, especially girls who risk early marriages, unwanted pregnancies and abuse. More than ever before, it is important to engage children in one form or the other, especially at the family and community levels, in continuous learning.’’
Kaddoura commended international donor organisations such as the European Union (EU) and Education Cannot Wait for providing funds to cushion the effect of school closure on children in North-east Nigeria.
He added that UNICEF will support the Borno State Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“UNICEF will provide COVID-19 related supplies to communities in Borno as part of prevention measures. Facilitators are important and they play an instrumental role in terms of monitoring of situation, awareness response and support delivery of supplies and material to targeted communities. Capacity building of facilitators can contribute to strengthening risk communication engagement including digital engagement and rumor monitoring,‘’ he said.