PLAN International Nigeria, a civil society organisation campaigning to promote children’s rights and equality for girls says there is a need for a properly coordinated information management and community mobilisation to guard against fake news, disinformation, demobilisation and stigmatisation as the world battles Covid-19 pandemic.
“Social media may spread incorrect information, and can worsen and impair fragile socio-political situations, heightening the risk of civil unrest. Lack of appropriate information could lead to and exacerbate misinformation and stigma,” said the organisation in its Covid-19 policy brief tagged “The Need for an Inclusive Approach,” released on Monday.
It emphasised that fake news and misinformation could increase the likelihood of preventing potentially infected people from immediately seeking care to avoid discrimination and stigma, especially among minorities and marginalised groups.
For effective data management, the organisation stated that it was important that data collected on COVID-19 cases are disaggregated by sex, age, disability, aggregate number of tested persons to enable an inclusive analysis in exposure and treatment, and to design differential preventive measures.
While commending the frantic effort of the states that have taken immediate actions and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), it lamented that inadequate number of test centres across the country.
“We find the number of testing centres in the country, put at now at seven , extremely inadequate for a country with a population of over two hundred million,” it said.
“It is thus urgent that government increase the number of diagnostic centres, and ensure that every state has at least one functioning diagnostic centre. In addition to this, diagnostics should also be decentralised allowing the private hospitals, diagnostic centres and state governments to establish laboratories with coordination and support from the NCDC.”
Plan International Nigeria also commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s confirmation to the country that “the whole instruments of government are now mobilised to confront what has now become both a health emergency and an economic crisis”.
While noting that “This is an important statement,” it added that ” but this should be reflected in a comprehensive Strategic Country Response Plan that will guide the response at all levels.”
On the efforts of the government and the support of the private sector, including individuals, the organisation stressed that there is a need for development partners, who have been major contributors to the health sector over the years, to reprogramme existing funding to support the COVID-19 response.
“This is urgent and it will be a major turnaround, which will help to catalyse and support existing responses. The development and humanitarian community must rise to the occasion to support communities with public health information and emergency relief, especially for the poor and the vulnerable, who are mostly women, children, adolescent girls, IDPs, and the people living with disability,” it said.
“The crisis will not only impact on the economy, it will hugely impact the lives of the poor and vulnerable people. In stimulating the economy, the government will need to take an important note of the poor and vulnerable.
“The lock-down in cities and major informal market centres will further compound the condition of these groups. It is therefore important for the government to invest and support the livelihoods of the marginalised and the vulnerable groups, who, for decades, were already locked—down socially and economically, before the onset of the pandemic and the recent lock-down ordered by the government.”
It advised that government and all stakeholders involved in creation of Isolation centres should ensure that such facilities are established in strict accordance with human rights standards (including gender-responsive measures).
“Some of these centres should be retained and sustainably maintained as communicable diseases centres.”