From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
As a development partner working in Kaduna State, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said, it is supporting Kaduna State in the fight against COVID-19 in a number of ways which include health, nutrition, education, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and behavioural change in various communities across the 23 local government areas of the State.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was only in Lagos and Abuja that people can do the test. Today, Kaduna has five laboratory units; two in Kaduna, one in Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, one in Kafanchan and one mobile unit going into communities to help people in knowing their status as far as COVID-19 is concern where UNICEF is said to be playing a critical role including the supply of array of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Between July 30 and August 31 (one month), Kaduna has 717 new laboratory-confirmed cases, 119 on admission, 836 discharged and no death recorded within the past one month.
These brought the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2,120 as against 1,403 in July 30, the discharged figure stood at 1,977 against 1,141 on July 30 while only 131 were on admission as opposed to 250 on July 30.
This feat would not have been possible without the inputs of other critical stakeholders including the media, corporate organisations, other development partners, non-governmental organisations, fate-based organisations and more importantly, the health workers both at the isolation treatment and referral centres across the State.
Having put the virus at check due to the earlier complete lockdown of all the economic activities in the State in March with strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the State Government, and gradual reopening – first with artisans, places of worship in July while schools beginning with the exit students and some markets reopened in August.
Speaking with this correspondent in an exclusive key informant interview, UNICEF Chief of Office for Kaduna State, Zakariya Adam, restated that, before COVID-19, UNICEF’s mandate focused on children – how to ensure children have their right and of course their mothers who are closer to them to help them enjoy those rights.
According to Zakariya, “the first was education which we are supporting through our traditional agreement. The second one is health with huge investment and technical support to ensure that the State is responsive in its health care sector in communities, particularly with children related issues.
“We also have nutrition intervention which is also a big package although some people think we include it in health. Nutrition is in itself a large and important sector.
“We are also supporting Water Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) to ensure that not just infrastructure exists around water or around sanitation but, to ensure effective use of this infrastructure to improve lives. We also have what we call child protection”.
Understanding the implication of the lockdown In children, child protection, in reality, is about strategizing and putting in place measures to address things like child abuse, violence through begging, to ensure children have their birth certificates among others, Zakari explained a number of ways the mandate of the organisation he supretends in Kaduna is being realised.
With COVID-19 Zakari explained how UNICEF is speeding up response time to reduce the community spread of COVID-19 without necessarily abandoned its routine intervention in the State.
“With COVID-19, our first challenge was how to ensure that all the existing packages continue. So, in addition to all these packages which we can call routine programmes, we ensure that communication with stakeholders to face COVID-19 is designed.
“To do that, our cooperation with the State to strategize and manage the pandemic is in order. So, UNICEF has technical support to Kaduna State.
“Our role here is to ensure that we provide technical advice for our health partners to ensure that adequate response is provided.
“Another aspect is if there is a need to provide material and equipment that can help to respond to the pandemic particularly related to testing.
“I am happy today on the health sector and want to comment that Kaduna is among the States that has developed a good capacity to test people.
“One of the strategies we need to face COVID-19 is hand washing. For example, you cannot wash your hand if you don’t have water. You cannot wash your hand clean if you don’t have soap. We are not only supporting communities to have boreholes; we are also sensitizing them to have behavioural change towards hand washing.
“Now, we go fast in sinking boreholes. We don’t go through long processes because it is about life-saving. WASH through implementing agency called Rural Water and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA), had gone into communities across the 23 local government areas of the state”, added.
Speaking specifically on the education of Almajarai children especially those that were recently repatriated from other state Zakari said, “you know about the story on the Almajirai issue where some of them were brought back to Kaduna and of course, Kaduna also sent to other states.
“However, I will like us to talk about the ones we received in Kaduna state. We supported the State to receive these children. The last account that I have was 2, 406 Almajarai children that were received among which we have 205 females and 2,201 males who have all been reunited with their families.
“There is a package for them to continue their education or vocation as the case may be and I’m sure that would have been fully taken off except for the pandemic issue at hand and lockdown of schools”, he added.
Corroborating this UNICEF’s position on the education of the Almajarai children in another key informant interview, Commissioner, Ministry of Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba said, the State government was hopeful the data that would come out from UNICEF’s data collection from the 23 local government area of the State would help in making a good plan with regards to the education of the Almajarai children recently repatriated from other states to Kaduna post-COVID-19.
“We have reunited them with their families. In fact, UNICEF in collaboration with the Kaduna State of Bureau of Statistics is doing data collection from all the local government areas in Kaduna State.
“We know the data will be reliable. They are doing very well. Immediately we finish collecting the data, we are going to give the ministry of education so that they plan with it.
“It was because of this OVID-19 if not, they would have started school. We are still receiving more. Even last week, we got some children from FCT, about 17 of them who are in very terrible condition.
“We have them in the camp and they have tested negative to COVID-19 but they have other diseases all over their body. We have taken them to the hospital for treatment and some of them are doing well now.
“My concern is, we are now having another set of Almajarai around. These are children that are living with their parents who have refused to cater to them and they are sending them to the street”, she decried.
As it stands, Kaduna State through a collaborative effort appears to be doing well in the containment of the ravaging COVID-19 especially as it records no COVID-19 related death in a span of one month.
However, awareness campaign on the need for the citizens to adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines especially at the community level must be intensified, adequate measures with regard to procurement and distribution of PPE to health facilities must be in place and accountability during this emergency will help in fast-tracking the total defeat of the virus in Kaduna State.