By Modupe Gbadeyanka The response of Airtel Nigeria to the COVID-19 pandemic last year has been recognised by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The agency said it was impressed with the company\u2019s role and support towards the COVID-19 response in Nigeria, commending the telco for deploying its resources in the fight against the dreaded virus. Speaking at an event in Lagos, the outgoing Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, expressed appreciation to Airtel for providing digital outreach platforms, access, connectivity and joining in the national campaign to sensitize Nigerians on how to stop the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, Mr Ihekweazu said the Airtel SMS channel was very effective in information dissemination and data gathering as it not only reached the targeted audience but was considered credible and authentic by the stakeholders. \u201cI commend Airtel for its support and on behalf of the NCDC, I will like to present an award recognizing Airtel\u2019s efforts in fighting COVID-19 in Nigeria,\u201d he said. In his response, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Airtel Nigeria, Mr Surendran Chemmenkotil, said the company will continue to leverage its digital resources and network infrastructure to fight infectious diseases in Nigeria just as it will continue to partner with the NCDC and other relevant governmental institutions. \u201cAirtel is pleased with the partnership with the NCDC and we will not rest on our laurels. As a key stakeholder and responsible corporate citizen, we will continue to collaborate with the government in creating opportunities and platforms that will protect and empower Nigerians,\u201d he said. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Airtel offered the NCDC toll-free lines and phones to enable the agency to process the deluge of phone calls it was besieged with and also curtail the spread of the pandemic. The telco also connected NCDC offices in the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria with broadband services riding on its expansive and robust 4G network architecture. Airtel said it believes that expanding the NCDC virtual, electronic and Internet access points will enable more Nigerians to get the much-needed help they require as well as facilitate instant sharing of important information that will greatly limit the current wave of the pandemic. In April 2020, Airtel Nigeria announced a commitment of N1.97 billion towards the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria. It offered free Short Message Services (SMS) to customers across all networks worth over N1.2 billion as well as complimentary data for customers to access educational sites worth over N494 million. The telco also invested N200 million in refurbishing and equipping a 4-storey admission facility for the use of Specialist Units in the Department of Medicine at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH); N50 million to Lagos State Government to procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for Lagos State Health Workers and N50 million for the procurement of a Molecular Laboratory provided by 54 Gene with the capacity for 300 tests per day for Ogun State. Also, Airtel Nigeria employees were the first employee group to make a donation of N20 million from their personal contributions in support of the fight against the COVID-19 global pandemic in May 2020. The donated sum was to support the Lagos State Government in the provision of relief materials to indigent residents and citizens as well as families who were badly affected by the lockdown.