How Effective was Nigeria’s Response to COVID-19?
It appears that the government has effectively managed the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, ranking high in terms of its response.
The Effectiveness of Nigeria’s Response to Covid-19
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, there was a lot of concern about how effective African nations would be in preventing the spread of the virus and treating those who had contracted the illness.
Nigeria was considered a major concern as well, as a 2017 evaluation by the World Health Organization concluded that the country’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to a major public health crisis was poor at best.
However, the country has proven to be up to the task. Not only has the government effectively implemented measures that have helped to greatly reduce the number of cases, but major financial donors have provided needed money and resources to help combat the effects of the pandemic. This has helped Nigeria to become a role model even for countries like the United States.
Business Community Gets Onboard
While there are areas of Africa that are not developed, much of Nigeria does not fit into this category. The business sector, in particular, is quite sophisticated, and this has had a dramatic impact. Because of the advanced development of the business sector, important goods were able to reach consumers, ensuring that people had food and water, as well as other essential goods.
Because of the advanced nature of the technology sectors, Nigeria was able to easily move to a digital economy, accepting e-payments which enabled a booming e-commerce industry. Even manufacturing companies such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble were able to quickly integrate into the e-commerce system, ensuring the supply chain remained unrestrained.
Public Health Sector Response
One benefit that Nigeria had over other countries is a recent outbreak of Ebola helped improve the public health system within the country. Within three years of the 2014 outbreak, 23 of the 36 Nigerian states had developed public health policy plans to combat and treat viral outbreaks. This seems to have been ignored by the World Health Organization in their assessment of Nigeria’s preparedness.
“These PHEOCs (Public Health Emergency Operations Centers) help states to detect, prevent, monitor and respond to infectious disease emergencies,” explained Ifeanyi Nsofor, a senior New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute and director of policy and advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch.
He explained that public health officials were quick to track the initial case of Covid-19, ensuring that warnings were issued promptly. “Reporting the index case was done within 48 hours of the Italian’s arrival in Nigeria and since then the NCDC has been giving regular daily updates and also revising its public health advisories.”
This system came in direct response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The virus spread quickly in areas like Guinea, but Nigeria was quick to act and implement protocols to fight the Ebola outbreak. This proved that they had a strong infrastructure that was able to respond and change direction to provide the response needed. The Nigerian government acted promptly and decisively, limiting the outbreak to only 19 cases before Nigeria was declared Ebola-free.
There Are Still Challenges
While the Nigerian government has taken numerous steps to diminish the impact of Covid-19, there are some glaring weaknesses in the system that need to be addressed. The first of these was the Economic Stimulus Bill 2020, which was passed on March 24. The bill provided 50% tax rebates to registered businesses and provided financial assistance to businesses to pay employees. A new stimulus bill will include interest-free loans to further keep businesses afloat.
In addition, the government provided 2.6 million households with cash assistance. This was an important step in ensuring that some of the poorest within the country had money to be able to use to purchase food and essential goods. However, in a country where 87 million residents make less than $1.90 a day, far too many people are not receiving financial assistance. More is needed to be done, but it is unclear whether the government has the financial resources to be able to provide any.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has implemented a program to provide loans to poor families affected by the virus, but these loans require collateral and are not interest-free. For those who are already struggling to make ends meet each day, taking on additional debt is not a long-term viable option to assist with the financial crisis.
Outside Help Will Be Necessary
While the Nigerian government has been able to implement policies that have provided some assistance, many within the government and with world organizations are recognizing that assistance from international sources is going to be needed. Cash transfers and food assistance programs have been inadequate and are not reaching nearly enough people.
The Nigerian government may not have the financial resources necessary to be able to properly assist citizens, as a plunge in oil prices has greatly diminished the income the country is generating. Plus, a national lockdown has greatly reduced the employment taxes generated.
While the Nigerian government has been quick to act and implemented policies that have helped to mitigate the impact of the virus, no country has been fully prepared for this virus. Even large countries, such as China and the United States, has been crushed economically by the virus. This leads to the conclusion that there was very little that the Nigerian government could have done to completely eliminate any impact from the disease.