Communities in Nigeria’s largest city learn how to protect themselves from COVID-19

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© UNICEF Nigeria/2020/Ojo

UNICEF is supporting awareness campaigns by health educators in all local government areas of Lagos State, with more than 14 million people

Blessing Ejiofor

As concerns continued to grow about the coronavirus pandemic reaching Nigeria, a Lagos State Ministry of Health team arrived at the Ansar-ud-deen Central Mosque, Odo-Eran, in Mushin. Their aim: to highlight the critical importance of good hygiene practices – including frequent handwashing with soap and running water – to stemming the tide of the virus.

As community members gathered, the Community Development Association Chairman, Alfa Mustapha Nasirudeen, said, “For the first time ever, our people could not attend the regular Jummat prayer held at this Mosque every Friday because of their fear of getting the coronavirus.”

“People are becoming aware of the fact that this infectious disease is here with us and many are eager to learn how to protect themselves,” said Temitope Akinterinwa.

The campaign kicked off with explanations about what coronavirus is, its symptoms, mode of transmission, and ways to prevent it. The team carried out simulations of the proper way of handwashing with soap under running water, and how to sneeze or cough properly into the elbow, especially in public. School children were excited and curious to see the handwashing demonstration.

“We also debunked rumors and myths around the coronavirus, which unfortunately are now being widely shared on social media and via WhatsApp messages in Nigeria,” said Temitope Akinterinwa.

Some of the false information being circulated includes that the virus cannot survive in Africa because of the hot weather, that taking a high dose of chloroquine medication can protect you, and that consuming large quantities of ginger and garlic can prevent the virus.

“We are encouraging families to trust information only from reliable voices, such as the Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and other authentic sources.”

UNICEF is supporting awareness campaigns by health educators in all 376 wards in all the local government areas of Lagos State, which makes up more than 14 million people.

“I will teach my friends the eight steps of effective handwashing with soap and running water that I learnt today,” said Farida Abdulazeez excitedly, as she showed off her clean hands.