Nigeria at War with COVID-19, Say ASCAB, Health Workers

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Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

With close to 100,000 infections from COVID-19, Nigeria seems to be in a state of war with the pandemic, the Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), and leading health workers’ unions have said.

The groups stated this after a one-day national meeting organised by ASCAB, which drew participants from leading health unions across Nigeria.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the groups warned that the second wave of the pandemic may record higher tolls unless immediate and drastic efforts are taken.

The communique condemned the Nigerian authorities for not including scientists in its various committees, saying such would undermine efforts to develop indigenous vaccine as a long term strategy of fighting the virus.

“Experts, including scientists, should take the lead in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. To this end, scientists should be included in the existing committees, and their given critical roles, a comprehensive response plan should be put in place to ensure that we can win the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” it stated.

The groups called for e-payment of a decent and befitting hazard allowance to all officials in the health sector, provision of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and consequent training on the use of the equipment, comprehensive insurance for all workers in the health sector; payment of all outstanding salary arrears and better funding and investment in the health sector among others.

They warned of dire consequences if the federal and state governments privatise institutions and services in the health sector, adding: “What is required is substantial investment in the health sector and the urgent training of all workers, including ancillary health workers,” the group said in a statement signed by renown lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on behalf of the groups.

The meeting held via Zoom on December 30, 2020, was organised by ASCAB and other health-related unions, including the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU); the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Mid-wives (NANNM), the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), the National Association of Community Health Practitioners (NACHP) and the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), which converged for a public meeting on the ‘Citizens Response to the Second Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the state of the Health Sector in Nigeria’.

The communiqué stated that COVID-19 is real and has inflicted horrors across the world.

It said: “Even so, the majority of Nigerians suffer far more from other diseases which could easily be prevented or treated. However, those in the informal sector, especially, would suffer far more from any possible return to lockdowns.”