With close to 100,000 infections, Nigeria is in a state of war with COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, (ASCAB) and leading health workers’ unions have said.
The groups spoke 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 issued after the meeting condemned the Nigerian authorities for not including scientists in its various committees saying that would undermine efforts to develop indigenous vaccine as a long term strategy of fighting the pandemic.
“That experts, including scientists, take the lead in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. To this end, scientists should be included in the existing committees and given critical roles. That a comprehensive response plan should be put in place to ensure that we can win the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic” the groups said in the communiqué.
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 staff in the Health Sector, payment of all outstanding salary arrears and better funding and investment in the health sector among others.
The groups warned of dare consequences if the Federal and state governments privatize institutions and services in the health sector. “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 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. Especially those in the informal sector, would suffer far more from any possible return to lockdowns” adding that the difference between Covid-19 and the diseases of poverty is that we know how to solve poverty and its related diseases.
“We have always had a vaccine for hunger – it is food. So far, we have suffered far lower levels of Covid-19 than Europe and North America, for example, but this could easily change with the new strains from South Africa and Britain which are far more infectious” ASCAB and the unions stated in the communiqué.
The group said Nigeria needs a massive increase in funding for public health to enable us all to survive Covid-19 and beyond; and to protect our health workers from Covid-19 and other diseases. The meeting also supported calls, especially from the health workers represented by JOHESU and the doctors of the NMA, for much greater funding for public health and to support any action they deem necessary to achieve their demands.
ASACAB and the health workers said they would establish a Solidarity Forum and a Covid-19 Situation Room as a citizens response initiative to monitor compliance and issue periodic reports on what needs to be done.