I’ve lived in Lagos all my life and I can tell you that the people of Lagos are a really special breed.
Following the official declaration of the novel Corona Virus as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 31st January 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria declared a nationwide “lockdown” effective 25th March 2020 to encourage social distancing and aid contact tracing efforts.
#Dontrush and a couple of other Tik-Tok challenges later, the people of Lagos are over the pandemic. However, the pandemic is anything but over. Completely disregarding this fact, people are moving with reckless abandon, only wearing face masks because there is a fine for default and taking the situation for a comedy skit. For myself and others with knowledge of health and wellness and lack of it, it is the scariest thing.
I discussed with a health comms/policy advocate, my girl Lauretta Hamza, and she shared her experiences Living in Lagos during a pandemic. We discussed the effect, the response, alternate situations, and the aftermath. Our conversation has been curated below.
I honestly believe that living through a pandemic should be a resumé-worthy achievement because it sharpened my ability to adapt to new situations and I am relatively unscathed through it all. I deserve a gold star, we all do! Some days were good, others were sub-par, especially those days that required working into the wee hours of the morning. We spoke a couple of times in the heat of the moment but I would like a rundown of the experience for you.
When the pandemic hit initially, around March, I was confused. It was like a movie trick and I thought I would get to stay indoors for a maximum of a month. Slowly, a month became a month and a half, and then two months, and now look! Can I also just say that “Life no balance” because, in this whole situation, some communities are doing above average, handling the situation better than others while some other communities are in a conundrum. Because of the work that I do in rural communities, I have seen that, the pandemic hit them so bad that they can’t even afford to get as much care as they need. In the grand scale of things, I’d say the negative outweighs the positive.
Slowly? I don’t know about the slowly part because everything went by so quickly. The year 2020 has been so fast with so many entanglements that I have lost count but I digress. Worthy of note, one of my favorite Nigerian sayings is “Life no balance” because it is true.
It hasn’t been so bad for me, I have been able to do the things that I love during the lockdown — read, sleep, cook — still keep up with my role at Communal Health Support Scheme and interestingly, we were able to source for partnerships with the local government and some private sector groups such as Merchlist, Fundall and the Black Kinsungi Foundation in order to locate vulnerable communities and sensitize members on the realness of the virus. In total, about 1000 families benefited from recent outreaches in four communities in Lagos — Alagbado, Sagbokoji, Oregun and Agidingbi — and in Jos — Angwa-Rukuba. We were also able to provide an ample supply of preventive medical supplies such as Immune boosting vitamins as well as hygiene products such as soaps, face masks and hand sanitizers that helped members of the community stay clean and safe.
Absolutely amazing! Doing the Lord’s work and all that good stuff. I will have to do another post on Communal Health Support Scheme and everything we have been involved in. The Sagbokoji experience remains one of the best things I have done with my time. Volunteering? 100% recommend.
The lockdown was a period of kindled love- love that I never knew existed. The NCDC-Nigeria love situation. I appreciated the daily text messages from them, encouraging me to be safe and whatnot. Loved it! I have some thoughts on the government response to the situation but I’d love to hear from you first.
I was always excited to see the text messages from NCDC as well. To be fair, I think the government’s response was as good as it gets, but I stand corrected. They tried their very best. Innovative solutions like the daily text messages were a good touch. They really pulled their weights, particularly with setting up isolation centres on short notice, even the participation of the Lagos state governor was commendable. My major concern is that strategies and responses were not adequately curated. Without proper documentation, there will be a lack of structured, expository information that can be used as a road map in future, if or when the need arises.
Speaking of strategies, one would think that the response would have been better, considering we have had to deal with an epidemic in the past. I remember the events of 2014 quite vividly. The contactless thermometers and spike in the price of commodities like hand-sanitizers. It is like déjà vu!
Well, no one saw this coming and I doubt we were in any way prepared for it. To the best of my knowledge, I know emergency responses had to be set up for this situation.
Could have, should have, would have?
I do think we saw it coming. Like the normal Nigerian behavior, it was passive responses and national calls for prayer, hoping it wouldn’t get to us. At this point, it is unclear who should be held responsible for the lax response at the initial stage.
I really don’t want to blame the government but I feel with regards to healthcare, we could have seen significant improvements if the sector had embraced innovation from the get-go. The major problem however is with financing, and not so much innovation. Health care facilities are bootstrapping, the budgeted healthcare allocation is insufficient, thus compounding problems. COVID-19 was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Take me back to season one of the pandemic, where everyone was bonding over Netflix series and Instagram music wars and baking banana bread. I miss making bread at the slightest provocation because I could. But I am somewhat thankful things are stabilizing and we are going back to normal. Well, whatever the new normal is because things have definitely changed.
For the most part, normal isn’t ever coming back.
Human beings have tasted something different, we aren’t going back, instead, we are evolving. My tiny advice is to stay flexible and hop on the new wave.
I do believe we can all begin to channel our inner Simone Biles and Aussie surfer and perform some calisthenics with our lives. I have always been a promoter of remote work, primarily because it's comfortable. The Coronavirus situation has cemented that for me. #Teamremotework
Before now, I never really enjoyed working in an office space and even after the Coronavirus saga ends, I’d still prefer working from home and managing projects remotely.
Any final thoughts?
Technology is a lifesaver! We can’t continue with business as usual, we need to embrace innovation and this is a new task for individuals like me and you who are passionate about healthcare. We need to start to think up new ways of doing things.
Living in a (mostly) urban city like Lagos is an extreme sport, to say the least. For the most part, it has been passive vibes, and maybe a healthy sprinkle of luck. As is evident in the rest of the world, individual safety is largely dependent on the efforts of the larger populace, much like class projects in university. And as we know and have seen, it could go either way: commendable (Cc New Zealand) or catastrophically wrong (the larger majority of the world). The pandemic is not showing signs of leaving anytime soon and with the reopening of the economy, we risk the possibility of a second or third wave. Things could have been a lot worse or maybe even are a lot worse than we know. The pandemic may not have been contained as we think, it may just have been unrecorded. Either way, the pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it!
Lagos living during a pandemic is many things but easy is not one of those things. Stay safe and follow all health procedures.
Thank you for reading my first Medium post to the end.