The emergence of Coronavirus is having a serious impact on global economy and has sent world leaders looking for appropriate response to a virus that has since been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The search for appropriate response has made governments and individuals as well as corporate entities to close ranks in addressing the challenge.
In Nigeria, the first case of Coronavirus was announced by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) on February 27, 2020. It was imported into the country by an Italian; a reminiscence of Ebola Pandemic which was imported by a Liberian.
Even before the index case was announced in Nigeria, government at the federal and state levels had trumpeted their preparedness in containing the novel virus that had already infected over 60,000 people in China with fatalities of more than 2,000 persons in China alone. As at the time of this write-up, the infected case in Nigeria had reached 373 with 11 unfortunate deaths recorded.
Billions of Naira and medical equipment had been donated by our politicians, corporate organizations, private individuals and our religious leaders alike. For quite some times now, it’s the first time Nigerians have acted as one. They have acted as one in the sense that political foes donated generously without minding their political differences. Nigerians are now acting as one because individuals have spiritedly contributed without caring about religious or tribal sentiments. Our banks have paused deducting ATM maintenance fees from poor customers and contributed billions of Naira in tackling this pandemic. Even our religious leaders are no longer focused on tithing from poor congregators but have taken from the “heavenly treasuries” of their followers and channeled into fighting COVID-19. Lest I forget, our legislators and ministers have finally become compassionate leaders by donating their March and April salaries as well as 50% of their March salaries respectively. We might as well argue that they should have donated their weighty and mysterious allowances instead of their salaries; but that is a story for another day.
While the outpouring of donations from diverse angles for the fight against COVID-19 is commendable, it is worthy of note that there is a more dangerous pandemic in the land known as HUNGER-VIRUS.
According to the 2019 Global Report on Food Crisis (GRFC), the number of people unable to meet their daily food needs without humanitarian assistance has been rising for several years. Data pooled from 15 agencies in the international humanitarian and development community showed that Nigeria, northern Nigeria to be specific, was one of the eight countries that housed two-thirds of the 113 million people who faced acute hunger across the globe in 2018. This ranks Nigeria alongside countries like Sudan, Syria, and Congo etc. The report estimated 5.3 million people to be “in crisis or worse”. Worse, there is no end in sight as the latest report by the Food and Agriculture Organization strongly projects that Nigeria’s efforts to achieve zero hunger by 2030 are seriously being undermined by the current insecurity in the country.
Approximately 3.6 million people in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe alone are likely to face food crisis or emergency and will require urgent food assistance between June and August 2020 (USAID 2019).
In a recent chat, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar was quoted as saying “There is a very serious virus that is killing Nigerians much higher than Coronavirus. That virus is hunger” the sultan said.
“There is hunger virus and it’s very serious. You need to go round the country, into the villages, into the towns and see how people are really struggling to survive.
“These are very serious issues, and as religious and community leaders, we must continue to talk about these issues, and also send our recommendations to the government and watch how the government will implement the recommendations”.
The accuracy of the sultan’s statement cannot be overstated. He is in a good position as a religious and community leader to voice out the feelings and frustrations of the poor Nigerians that he represents.
The rate at which hunger is killing very fast, the generosity of our political class, business mogul, corporate organizations, individuals and religious leaders is urgently needed. Hunger might not have attacked the rich and prominent in Nigeria like Coronavirus but it is so deadly that an NGO, Save the Children said in 2016 that up to 75,000 children could die- about 205 a day if nothing is urgently done. That number is higher than the number of reported COCID-19 cases in Nigeria as at this week.
Extreme hunger is showing us that it is worse than Coronavirus in Nigeria. While Coronavirus has no cure yet, Hunger-virus has cure-food-which is yet not affordable by many in Nigeria due to extreme poverty caused by corruption and insecurity in the land.
As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the country, various methods have been adopted to contain the spread courtesy of advice from public health officials. These methods include social distancing, self-isolation, working from home, construction of emergency health centers and total lockdown in some states as directed by the president. These are commendable measures to curtail the disease. But which are the measure to contain hunger that has killed more Nigerians than COVID-19? Before COVID-19 a more lethal virus has been with us in Nigeria and it is called HUNGER-VIRUS. The dedication and commitment with which the national response has been implemented leaves observers wondering why the same could not have been extended to the decades-long hunger malady. The country is under attack by two pandemics and until hunger in the land is given the required urgent attention, we will continue to have a more deadly virus living with us.