By Justina Auta
The Federal Government in collaboration with UN in Nigeria Wednesday inaugurated “POWERFUL H.A.N.D.S’’ campaign to develop, change and sustain long term preventive behaviour to eliminate spread of COVID-19 pandemic amongst citizens.
The project is to be implemented by Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI), an NGO with technical support from UNICEF and funding from the European Union (EU) to prevent spread of COVID-19 and other similar diseases
The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the inauguration in Abuja, said that the campaign would create more awareness on the pandemic and improve the practice of preventive behaviours.
Ihekweazu said that Nigeria recorded over 165,000 confirmed cases and about 200 deaths arising from COVID-19 with over 150,000 recovery cases successfully managed and discharged from hospital.
He explained that the emerging variants of the COVID-19 threatened the achievement made so far in curtailing the disease, hence the need for more efforts to eliminate it in totality.
“Our behaviour continues to be very important and in as much as we appreciate the advancement, we must recognise that the future of this outbreak still lies in our hands.
“Medications relieve us of symptoms, vaccines can build our immunity but our behavior is more important than any of that especially with the respiratory virus like this one,’’ he said.
He urged Nigerians not to let down their guards due to the record of the decline in COVID-19 cases, but rather make conscientious efforts towards adhering to the guidelines of preventing COVID-19 and behavioural change.
The Executive-Director, CCSI, Mrs Babafunke Fagbemi, said that the project time frame was four months and its focus would be in Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Oyo, Plateau, and Rivers, which recoded high cases of COVID-19.
“We need to revive a sense of apathy, seeming hopelessness in communities by injecting fresh messages that will give hope and let people have more confidence and build their efficacies to be able to do something and the messages are easy to recall.
“Social and behaviour change is the bedrock in sustainable gains in improving the health and wellbeing of society and family. And once you get these pillar rights, of changing behavior, it is easy to build up the other components of the campaign,’’ she said.
She also said the nationwide campaign will entail mass media, digital media (also suitable for visually and hearing impaired) and targeted community/school engagement activities.
“CCSI will be collaborating with the Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) pillars in the target states to engage prominent stakeholders in two hot spot LGAs to promote the key behaviours of the campaign to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19.”
Head, EU Delegation in Nigeria, Mr Ketil Karlsen, said that the EU and its member states in Europe had mobilised 38.5 billion euros in response to the fight against COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.
Karlsen, represented by Head of Partnership, EU, Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, said the union had also supported Nigeria with over four million doses of vaccines and allocated 50 million euros to complement government efforts in addressing COVID-19.
Representative of the five joint UN agencies in Nigeria, Country Representative, UNICEF, Mr Peter Hawkins, urged the media to amplify their voices in the campaign towards eliminating COVID-19 pandemic.
Hawkins, highlighted the three elements in the campaign, which include: mass media on enforcing the messages, educating schools education and community engagement on COVID-19 as the focal points in the campaign.
Also, representing Commissioners of Health in the implementing states, the Ag Sec., Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Health and Human Services Secretariat, Dr Mohammed Kawu, pledged their support towards curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garba Abari, also stressed the need for social behaviour change to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abari, while urging the media to create more awareness on the pandemic, encouraged Nigerians to access only credible information on COVID-19 from reliable sources.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the inauguration and unveiling of the project was done by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, represented by the DG, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
Other highlights of the events included the inauguration of an educational entertainment campaign by Nigeria music artists, Teni and a presentation by students of LightForce Scholar’s Academy International, Abuja.
Also, the campaign is also featuring a unique Super Hero, “Captain Bubbles” for young children to promote the habit of hand washing and other key hygiene practices with an animated video and theme song. (NAN)